Hurricane Dorian was also a catastrophe for the Bahamas' unique birds | 9/15/2019 | Staff
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Hurricane Dorian was the second most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record and the fifth to reach the highest hurricane category (five) in the past four years. After it first made landfall, it hovered over the northern Bahamas for more than 50 hours.

The human death toll is currently around 50 but more than 1,000 people are still missing and at least 70,000 have been left homeless. Many residents have lost everything, including their tourism industry, and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Time - Tragedy - Loss - Wildlife - Conservation

At a time of such immense human tragedy, it may seem too soon to mourn the loss of wildlife. But, as a conservation biologist who specializes in island ecology, I am also worried about the Bahamas's unique birdlife—several species may have have been severely harmed or even lost, literally overnight.

Just this time last year, my UEA master's students, Matthew Gardner and David Pereira, spent several months researching birds on Grand Bahama island and were able to announce the rediscovery of a species that had not been seen since Hurricane Matthew in 2016: the Bahama nuthatch (Sitta insularis). One of several bird species endemic to these islands—that is, it lives nowhere else—the nuthatch is a tiny bird that nests in tree cavities.

Nuthatch - Fragmentation - Predators - Snakes - Cats

The nuthatch was already suffering from habitat fragmentation, invasive predators such as snakes and cats and the local extinction of a native woodpecker species, the West Indian woodpecker, in the 1990s. This woodpecker had previously created tree holes subsequently used by the nuthatch, which likes to nest in small cavities.

Matthew, David and others from the University of the Bahamas played a recording of the nuthatch's call in order to attract and observe it—they found the bird was alive after all. However, we feared numbers may be as low as just one or two individuals.


Sadly, the species is unlikely to...
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