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Bermuda Flag

Bermuda's Fauna

Animals, birds, fish, insects, marine life, reefs, endemic and naturalized

line drawing

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer by e-mail to this file use "bermuda-online.org/fauna" as your Subject

Main Map of Bermuda Islands

Advance information on Bermuda - from our files exclusively.

Animals on land

Of more than 1600 resident terrestrial plants and animal species, only 27% are native.

Bulletin of Marine Science. Bermuda Natural History Museum. The issue prior to July 14, 2000 had an inventory by Dr. Wolfgang Sterrer on the number of species (at least 8,299) of flora and fauna then in Bermuda, of which 4,597 are marine and 3,702 are terrestrial.

Bermuda's new Protected Species Act 2003 became law on 1st March 2004. Endemic animals are shown below by name and description. Except for birds, no prior legislation existed. The new act called for a proactive approach to the protection of local species threatened with extinction, and their habitats.  Protected species include  27 plants, birds, animals and marine organisms, plus 21 cave organisms, as threatened and 'listed' according to international criteria. Recovery plans for the other species  include the Bermuda Cedar, Palmetto and Yellowwood, plus fern and flowering plant species. Wildlife includes the Cahow, Longtail, White-eyed Vireo, Skink, turtles, whales, a species of snail, the tiny Cave Shrimp and other crustaceans. The Bermuda Protected Species Act 2003 allows for the listing of threatened species and recovery plans for active intervention, in order to enhance population levels. The Protected Species Recovery Plan project is funded by the UK Overseas Territory Environmental Programme (OTEP).

Bermuda does not have alligators, badgers, buffalo, chipmunks, crocodiles, deer, ferrets, giraffes, hedgehogs, lions, moles, mongooses, moose, raccoons, skunks, snakes, squirrels, stoats, tigers, weasels or zebras. A recent attempt to bring in skunks for domestic purposes was defeated.

Animals are mostly imported originally or more recently, but a few are endemic or native. All the following were imported originally, except those shown otherwise

Argentine ants (Irodomyrmex humilus), numerous. Nuisance, can bite. 

Bees and honey. First imported to Bermuda in 1616 from Britain. Local honey is very expensive compared to imported varieties but is lovely. The Bermuda Beekeepers' Association (BBA) was formed in 1949. Today, most of the island's beekeepers belong to BBA. One colony can produce up to 170 kg of honey. Local folklore says a teaspoon of Bermuda honey taken with tea is a powerful aphrodisiac. There are two honey flows a year, minor in June-July and major in September-October. In 2003, Hurricane Fabian caused substantial damage to the local honey industry, just at the start of the September honey flow. After it, no flowers were left from which bees could gather nectar. The effects of a hurricane linger for years while the vegetation recovers. In 1987 when Hurricane Emily swept over the island, the main honey flow from the Schinus sp. Brazilian pepper tree, was interrupted and approximately 30% of the island's vegetation destroyed. The annual honey crop was reduced by over 50%. Since then, bees have been further troubled by disease.

Bermuda Ant.  Odontomachus insularis. An indigenous ant long thought extinct until re-discovered living in July 2002 by local college student Alex Lines, a Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo intern.

Bermuda Land Snail (1).  Poecilozonites bermudensis. For decades conservationists believed Bermuda’s endemic land snail was extinct. They feared it had become a victim of invasive predators. But now, around 40 years after its last sighting in the wild, a healthy colony of these snails turned up in October 2014 in the heart of Hamilton in a damp and overgrown alleyway. The discovery has amazed conservationists in Bermuda. And steps are now being taken to protect the habitat and re-establish the uniquely Bermudian small snail on the Island. This is a unique genus of snail, found nowhere else in the world, for years thought it has been extinct. It seems that this small group has been protected by their urban isolation. The fact that there was so much concrete around them probably saved them from the predators that is believed to have killed the vast majority of the population Island-wide. The last recorded sighting of this endemic land snail was made in the early 1970s by Stephen J Gould. The well-known paleontologist had done his PhD as a young man on the Island and recorded them as being plentiful throughout the country. But when he returned to Bermuda in the early 1990s their numbers appeared to have taken a dramatic plunge, to the point that he could no longer find one. A lot of what we know today about these animals comes from Dr Gould’s work. He came down here as a deckhand on a ship originally and was fascinated by the evolution that had happened to these snails in Bermuda. He returned to the Island to do his PhD on them. He was still working with these species in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But suddenly it seemed that the snails, which had once been plentiful, completely died out. Dr Gould put it down to the introduction of predatorial snails that were deliberately brought to Bermuda to control the edible garden snail — another introduction that was proving a pest. Dr Gould is not alive now to hear that this animal still remains in the wild. A survey conducted in 1988 by two US scientists in Bermuda could find no living trace of Poecilozonites bermudensis. And later studies in 2000, 2002 and 2004 seemed to confirm that the animal was extinct. Furthermore, it was discovered that the population of another smaller endemic snail, Poecilozonites circumfirmatus, was rapidly declining. As a result a lifeboat project was arranged and the much smaller snail was sent to London Zoo where it has been saved from extinction. Plans are now afoot to protect the colony of Poecilozonites bermudensis in Hamilton and look at possible spots to translocate the species around the Island to reestablish it. 

Bermuda Land Snail

Bermuda Land Snail Poecilozonites bermudensis

Bermuda Land Snail (2). Poecilozonites circumfirmatus. An indigenous snail long thought extinct until re-discovered living in July 2002 by local college student Alex Lines, a Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo intern. In the 1970s, Harvard paleontology professor Stephen Jay Gould found one and wrote "An Evolutionary Microcosm: Pleistocene and Recent History of the Land Snail Poecilozonites in Bermuda. At one time years ago, they could be picked up by the bucketful to be ground up and burnt for lime and mortar. Nowadays, it is the surviving member of Bermuda’s only endemic animal genus. Two related endemic species, P. bermudensis and P. reinianus are considered to have become extinct in the 20th century. A landmark survey of the island’s snails, by Drs. Rudiger Bieler and John Slapcinsky in 1998, revealed very sparse numbers of Bermuda's endemic snail island-wide.

Bermuda Rock Lizard (Skink). Eumeces longirostris. It is Bermuda's only endemic, non-flying, non-swimming terrestrial vertebrate. It was described as endemic  and unique to Bermuda in 1860 by P. H. Pope, the Smithsonian herpetologist. Its fossil bones, dating back 300,000 years or more, have been found in local limestone caves. Now quite rare in most parishes, largely restricted to pockets of coast and isolated islands. An adult can grow up to seven inches long. It is a protected endangered species. It is quite different to those imported from the Caribbean.  People from Scotland who are familiar with the national dish called Cullen Skink can rest assured that they are not eating a Rock Lizard or any other kind of skink of the type mentioned above or below.

Bermuda Rock Lizard (Skink)

1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp

Lizard

Caribbean and other species here are the: 

In mid-2011 Government sought help in tracking two recently introduced species of lizard. The Asian and Mediterranean geckos are easily distinguished as they have a mottled tan, brown or grey skin with distinctive bumps all over the body. Also the pupil of the eye is orientated vertically. Jamaican Anolis lizards have incurred a bad reputation from their diet of ladybirds.

Bermuda Spiders  - Golden Silk (Nephila claripes, native) and other types including those with long legs, plus at least one Black Widow confirmed in November 2001). Commonly seen and apprehensive to many people, especially tourists from the USA (more than 80% of all visitors), Canada, UK and Europe. It has long legs and huge sac, but is harmless.  Other spiders include colorful ones with tiny shell-like backs. They are also harmless. Once, particularly when Bermuda cedar trees were common (until the 1950s), there were other spiders including very small black and white ones with a hard shell. The silk spider Nephila clavipes is commonly known as the 'hurricane' spider for its ability to predict bad weather. It will spin its web close to the ground, in trees or shrubs, when bad weather is coming. When conditions are good its web can be seen in the higher branches of trees or shrubs. The larger dominant female builds a strong web of silk. The smaller male lives on the outskirts of the web to avoid being eaten by the female.

Bermuda silk spider

Bermuda Toads. Bufo marinus, or Rhinella marina, introduced, common, island-wide and year-round but especially in the summer months after rainfall. sometimes wrongly called Surinam toads or road toads or giant toads, 4" to 9" in length, were originally imported to Bermuda from British Guinea (now Guyana) in 1875 to control cockroaches and centipedes, but were not successful. They were once very common locally, especially around marshy areas and central parishes and after a good rain but are not seen so much now. They do not spit and will not cause warts if touched. They are shades of brown, varying from yellow, red, to olive-green, sometimes with spots of white across the back, sides and legs. Their undersides are yellow with black flecks. Their skin is dry, often with rows of warts on areas. The females are markedly larger than the males, while the males have more prominent rows of warts. When a toad is attacked, its defense is exuding a milky fluid, (bufotoxin), from these warts, which act as an irritant to the mucous membranes of the attacker. There are two concentrations of the poisonous glands behind each eye. They are known as parotid glands. These glands are very prominent and are a key distinguishing feature of the species. The poison does not protect the toad against all predators, for most snakes and birds seem to be unaffected and humans tend to only get skin irritation, but it is fatal to small animals as well as many domestic cats and dogs. Tadpoles are jet black above and silvery white with black spots below. Dog owners should be aware they are a dangerous threat, poisonous, to dogs.  When provoked, they excrete a venomous toxin from enlarged parotid (salivary) glands located behind their eyes. They can excrete enough venom to kill a dog. This venom behaves primarily as a neurological toxin and can cause seizures (convulsions). However, it also can also affect the capability or quality of shrinking or contracting muscles of the heart. Initial indications that your dog has been in contact with a toad are mouth irritation, salivation, shaking their head, pawing at their mouth and general distress. These initial signs are usually noticed immediately after exposure and will usually disappear within half an hour. At this stage try taking a dry paper towel and wipe the dog 's mouth to remove any residual venom. Clean around the eyes with cotton balls soaked in warm water. Do not use vinegar. It is very dangerous if a dog accidentally inhales it as it can cause a severe or even fatal pneumonia. More severe signs of exposure are twitching, vomiting, and seizures (convulsions). If you notice any of these signs it is very important to contact your veterinarian immediately. The effects from the toxin are dose related. This means that it doesn't take as much toxin to cause seizures in a smaller breed of dog, such as a Jack Russell Terrier or a Yorkie, as it does a larger breed dog, such as a Labrador Retriever. Dogs that develop twitching or seizures need to be treated by a veterinarian immediately. They are generally sedated or anaesthetized to control the seizures until their livers have had time to metabolize the toxin. During this time, many additional steps are taken to support their body systems, such as reducing often high body temperatures and placing them on intravenous fluids. Be mindful if you let your dog's off leash into the garden at night. Early detection of a toad poisoning is the key to a safe recovery. Know the signs, and be sure to contact your veterinarian on their emergency pager service if you are unsure, especially if you own a smaller breed dog.

Bermuda toad

 

Butterflies. Common. Species include Bermuda Buckeye (Junonia coenia bergi, endemic); Cabbage (Pieris rapae); Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae); Gulf fritallary (Agraulis vanillae); Monarch (Danaus plexipus).

Carpenter Ant. Common in Bermuda. A nasty large ant, can eat through anything. 

Carpenter Ant

Caterpillars. Common

Cats (domestic and feral). Many different types, mostly shorthair 

Cattle (bulls, cows, calves). Not many, not farmed for meat, only for milk.

Centipedes. Anthropods. Not too common. Once known to inhabit mainly eastern parishes and from this often called the St. David's centipede. But some individual or nests of centipedes have gotten around the Island via the trash collection system or on horticultural debris collected from parks or woodland areas. Huge, can be a foot long. A bite can be painful and prolonged. They could cause serious problems to anyone allergic to bee or insect stings. They feed on small insects, and their venom, delivered by powerful pincers at their head, is said to be about as painful as a bee sting. Have no qualms about entering homes and guest units. The best-known deterrent is having toads nearby, especially female ones. But there are now far fewer toads than  in the past. Centipedes usually enter houses by accident while seeking prey, and end up trapped — although they will make nests in damp, cool, protected areas. They can be dissuaded from entering a residence by keeping tall vegetation and debris back from walls.

centipede

Centipede

Chickens (including wild chickens galore). Used for laying of local eggs.

Cicada. Once a lot more numerous than now. Until the 1950s, Bermuda had Bermuda cedar trees galore, which cicadas loved. The sound of the cicada love song, amorous adult males to females, was for many years in Bermuda the loudest and most wonderful insect song at night. Bermudians referred to cicadas fondly as "hummers." Some species of cicadas then known in Bermuda registered over 100 decibels when singing. Sadly, when most of the Bermuda cedar trees were killed of by a blight in the 1950s, the cicadas that made the nights so uniquely magical and romantic in sound also largely disappeared.

Cockroaches - usually Megaloblatta blameroides or Blattella asahinai - giant flying ones, easily as large as or larger then the Texas variety, or Periplaneta americana or Blattella germanica - that fly and can get into even the most impeccably maintained apartments,  condominiums and cottages and are extremely difficult to get rid of. Numerous and a nasty nuisance, especially in the kitchen and bedrooms, particularly when not air-conditioned. They like the combined heat and humidity of Bermuda for most of the year. Some are 3 inches or more long. These cockroaches resist being squished, can live for days even when their heads are cut off, breed with hen roaches and have numerous families of chick roaches. Some can stink when they are dead. Best way of trying to keep them at bay is to use Raid roach spray. But in fairness to Bermuda they are not Bermudian except by naturalization. They are also common throughout the Caribbean (900 miles to the south) plus in Florida, Texas, etc.

cockroach

Crabs in beach areas.

Dogs (all must be leashed by law but this is often ignored). All must be licensed.

Donkeys. Not many.

Dragonflies

Fleas. Nuisance.

Flies (different types) including huge bluebottles. Nuisance.

Garden pests, such as aphids, mealy bugs on crotons; black spot on roses and hemispheric scale on hibiscus.

Grasshoppers.

Honeybees - used for domestic honey production 

Horses, mostly for show or recreation or limited agricultural purposes

Ladybugs

Lizards. See under Bermuda Rock Lizard. 

Mice

Mites.

Mosquitoes  (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus - including those potentially liable to catch West Nile Virus) and which caused outbreaks of dengue fever in Bermuda in the 1940s. But they are not sprayed for fear of what the spray or fogging could do to harm drinking water and roof catchments. 

Moths (150 species).

Mules. Not many. 

Pill bug "roly-poly" (Armadillidium vulgare from Europe).  

Pigs, all imported or issue of once-imported stock. No trace left of the original wild pig or hog (see Hog Money), brought from Spain in the mid 1500s and left ashore as a future food resource for later visits by Spanish mariners).

Rabbits, domestic and wild (once domesticated but let free by persons leaving Bermuda). 

Rats (Rattus rattus), first arrived in 1614 in a cargo of grain), first reported accidental introduction, many appear in gardens and parks). 

Sheep. Not many, not farmed or slaughtered, in one area of Bermuda only, Sandys Parish

Sheep in Bermuda

Sheep, from Sandys Parish

Snails, edible and inedible, include Otala lactea ( from Southern Europe via New York) and (Euglandina rosea, naturalized) 

Terrapins - former pet turtles abandoned by their owners. 

Ticks.

Wasps (three species, including the so-called "red bee"  - polistes sp. fuscatus - which can inflict a painful sting, not once but many times). 

Leafcutter Bee 

Megachile spp. Extremely rare in Bermuda, known to inhabit Nonsuch Island. A native of the western USA. In Bermuda, most are approximately the size of the common honeybee, although they are somewhat darker with light bands on the abdomen. They also have different habits. Leafcutter bees are not aggressive and sting only when handled. Their sting is very mild, much less painful than that of honeybees or yellow jacket wasps. Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, meaning that they don't produce colonies as do social insects.

Leafcutter bee

Whistling frogs (tree frogs)

Whistling frog Bermuda tree frogTwo species, Eleutherodactylus johnstonei and Eleutherodactylus gossei (first is shown in 1979 Bermuda Postage Stamp graphic here) sing loudly at night. They are one of the most characteristic night sounds of Bermuda between April and November. They are not indigenous - both were introduced accidentally sometime prior to 1880, most likely on orchids imported from the Lesser Antilles. They can be found elsewhere in temperate and sub-tropical regions. 

They are so small they can sit on a thumbnail. They have tiny suction discs on long, slender toes. They can be heard island-wide when the weather is warm enough but are most common in the Parishes of Devonshire, Paget, Pembroke and Warwick. Their song is the sound of males trying to attract females. The first of the two is more common and smaller. The other has almost disappeared. Both are brownish, nocturnal, living in trees near the ground and by day hiding under stones and leaf litter.  

Many visitors are not used to the whistling song, a loud bell-like chorus, of these tiny and harmless creatures. Some visitors say it disturbs their sleep but others love it because it adds a unique sound to the atmosphere. Some newly-weds say it keeps them awake and explains their sleepy eyes the next morning. Whistling frogs do not require standing water for breeding but pass through their tadpole stage within the egg itself. Clusters of eggs are laid in damp situations among rotting vegetation or under stones.

Tree frog

Tree frog captured by digital camera. Photo kindly lent by Bertram Forbes

Species now extinct


Birds

Afforded a certain amount of protection under Bermuda's Protection of Birds Act 1975. Overall, only 23 birds breed in Bermuda, but there are over 200 different types of migrant birds that visit every year.

Bermuda Birds 01

Extract from a Bermuda Post Office "Bermuda Wildlife Definitive Part 1" series of 1978

American coot

Fulica americana, common. 

Bermuda longtail 

Bermuda LongtailBermuda longtail 2

Bermuda LongtailPhaethon lepturus catesbyi. Graphic to the left from a 1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp. Yellow billed, white-tailed tropic bird, not indigenous but native. It is a national symbol and many souvenirs and pieces of jewelry are made with its image, some locally in gold and silver. The white-tailed tropic bird - or longtail as Bermudians know it - is Bermuda’s traditional harbinger of spring and one of the most beautiful features of our coastline during the summer months. Nesting from April to October in holes and crevices of the coastal cliffs and islands - mostly in the Castle Harbour islands -  where it is safer from human disturbance and introduced mammal predators, it is the only native seabird to have survived in numbers comparable to its primeval abundance on Bermuda. Once, up to about 1978, at least 3,000 nesting pairs used to breed along most of the coastline but the numbers have declined steadily due to coastline development, increased disturbance from an expanding population, and predation by illegally-stray stray dogs, cats, crows and oil pollution at sea. Also, they compete compete with pigeons for nests. Other factors include global warming and its higher sea levels that flood lower nest sites. Hurricanes Felix and Adrian in September 2004 destroyed many nests and filled others with rock. There is a longtail housing crisis. To try to solve the problem of weather, nature and global warming, longtail igloos were invented in 1997 as an emergency measure to provide alternative nesting sites. They are made of SKB roofing material and provide good insulation and shelter from the sun. They are light but strong with a concrete covering that provides camouflage and holds the nest in place. 35 longtail igloos are now in place on Nonsuch Island and seem to be working well. Longtails have such small feet that they are unable to walk on land and hence do all their nest searching on the wing. It is this constant searching back and forth along the cliffs, combined with their aerial courtship display, which involves touching the tips of the long tail feathers together in paired flight, that makes them so conspicuous on our coastline. The single purplish-red speckled egg is laid in April and hatches in late May. The chick takes approximately 65 days to fledge and departs to sea on its own in late July or early August. Longtails do all of their feeding far out on the open ocean where they plunge from a height  onto unsuspecting fish and squid like a gannet. During the winter months, the population disperses throughout the Sargasso Sea and remains out of sight of land. Evidently, the birds sleep on the wing or on the water if it is calm.

1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp.

Cahow (Bermuda Petrel) 

Bermuda Petrel (Cahow) Pterodroma cahow. Graphic to the left from a 1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp. A native, it was once prolific but consumed with gusto by early colonists. It was considered extinct until quite recently. It is rare and protected. It is believed to have been in Bermuda for 300,000 years. Heard only during the winter months, the cahow earned its Christmas bird name from mariners who became involuntary early temporary colonists after their ships going elsewhere were damaged on the reefs. It is said that they were so frightened by the nocturnal cries of this once abundant bird that they referred to Bermuda as the Isles of Devils. When the first settlers arrived in 1609 and 1612, it is believed there were half a million cahows. They were so easy to catch and eat they were hunted to what was thought to be extinction.  In 1951, Dr. Cushman Murphy of the USA finally arrived in Bermuda from a museum in New York City, after having been pestered for years by Samuel Ristich to do so. Ristich had served in Bermuda with the US Army Air Corps and had found a cahow. When Murphy came down, he found five living cahows, believed to have been extinct since 1650. As a direct result of Murphy's visit and unique find, Dr. David Wingate started his breeding program for cahows on Nonsuch Island shortly afterwards. Dr. David Wingate discovered 16 pairs still living on Nonsuch Island in 1951. In 2002, more than 65 breeding pairs were identified. They fly over the sea but return to Bermuda to begin courtship activities in late October. They mate for life and produce only one egg each year. The female lays a single white egg in January and in early March a chick covered in dense grey down emerges. Young chicks leave Bermuda in late May or early June and spend their first eight years of life on the open ocean before returning as adults to breed. Like most petrels, cahows are nocturnal and land only to breed. They nest in a soil burrow the bird excavates. 

1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp. 

Catbird

Once common.

Kiskadee Flycatcher 

Bermuda bird - kiskadeePitangus sulphuratus. Noisy, aggressive, yellow breasted and striped headed shown in right graphic, known in American books on birds as the Great Kiskadee. It has contributed to serious declines of the native species chick-of-the-village, Northern cardinal and catbird. It is a very large, big-headed flycatcher, near size of a Belted Kingfisher, somewhat like that bird in actions, even catching small fish. It has rufous wings and tail. The bright yellow under parts and crown patch and strikingly patterned black and white face identify it. The local variety were imported from Trinidad in 1957 as worker-birds in hope they would be beneficial. Their hoped-for function was to control - by consumption - the Anolis lizards which had incurred a bad reputation from their diet of ladybirds. But they did nothing to control the lizards. They are now among the most common birds in Trinidad. They are also natives of southern Texas and Louisiana, south to Argentina and residents of the lower Rio Grande Valley. They very rarely stray north to Arizona from western Mexico. Its bright pattern is unique in North America.

It is omnivorous. It feeds mostly on large insects, such as beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, bees, and moths; but also eats lizards, mice, baby birds, frogs, tadpoles, and small fish, many berries, small fruits and some seeds. It forages in various ways, often going from its perch flies out from its perch to catch flying insects in the air. It will perch on branch low over water and plunge into water for fish, tadpoles, or insects. It often eats berries in trees and shrubs.

Both female and male mates actively defend nesting territory against intruders of their own species and are quick to mob any predators that venture too close. The nesting site is usually among dense branches of a tree or large shrub, 6-50' above the ground, usually 10-20' up. The nest is a large bulky structure, more or less round, with the entrance on the side. Nest is built of grass, weeds, strips of bark, Spanish moss, and other plant fibers, and lined with grass. The female usually lays 4 eggs, sometimes 2-5. They are creamy white, dotted with dark brown and lavender. Both adults help to feed the young in the nest. 

Without knowing it beforehand, with the kiskadees Bermuda allowed in a veritable bird gang of terrorists. Those 200 original yellow-breasted kiskadees have become the prolific and noisy Mafioso of Bermuda's bird lands, trees, shrubs and telephone wires - and a major threat to the lives, feeding and nesting habits of Bermuda's beautiful bluebirds and other birds as well as to soft-skinned local fruit, crabs, fish and other choice edibles. Also, they were the major reason for the extinction of the endemic Cicada (known locally as Singers) by the late 1990s.

Egret

Comes frequently and some of the species are naturalized. 

English house sparrow  

Plain brown, common. Introduced in 1870.

Eastern bluebird  

Sialia sialis. Native. Once very common, it nested in hollows of cedar trees, on coastal cliffs and even under eaves of houses.  As a cavity nester, it became especially vulnerable to nest site competition from the English house sparrow.  With the Bermuda cedar spoilage in the 1950s and its repercussions, the population declined by more than 80%.  An artificial wooden nest book program was introduced which has had limited success, but still a firm favorite among many Bermudians and other residents. Loves concrete bird baths with lots of water and can splash around in them for ages. This Bermuda postage stamp honors them.

Bermuda Eastern Bluebird

1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp

Flamingos 

Not native, can be seen at the Bermuda Aquarium.

Heron

Yellow crowned night herons (Nyctanassa violacea), once brought in to keep down the land crab population, were re-established from 46 birds imported from Florida in the 1970s. They are now native.

Mourning dove 

Zenaida macroura,  common. Similar to a wood pigeon.

Northern cardinal 

Cardinalis cardinalis. Bermudians know it as Redbird. First introduced to Bermuda from Virginia in about 1700 as a cage bird, but once released became such a farm pest that bounties were offered for its capture. It became so abundant that during the 19th century many thousands locally were trapped for resale abroad as cage birds. Not all that common today, despite being officially protected. A favorite for many, it has bright red plumage and a loud cheery song. Likes bird feeders and has a preference for sunflower seeds.

Northern Cardinal

 1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp

Pied-billed grebe 

Podilymisus podiceyps. Common.

Starling

Introduced in the 1950s. An invasive which feeds on the fruits of the hugely invasive Indian Laurel tree and spreads even more invasive seeds throughout Bermuda.

White-eyed virio 

Vireo griseus bermudianus. Known to Bermudians as Chick of the Village in imitation of its cheery song which is sung throughout the year. An endemic sub-species characterized by shorter wings and duller plumage compared to its American first cousin. An insect-eating bird of the forest canopy, it was originally associated with Bermuda’s once-large, long-gone cedar and palmetto forest.  The almost total destruction of the  Bermuda cedar tree in the 1940s and 1950s by accidentally introduced insect pests nearly caused its extinction, but it has recovered.

Bermuda white-eyed vireo

1978 Bermuda Postage Stamp.

Marine life

Bermuda Cave Fauna

Various species, as outlined in http://www.tamug.edu/cavebiology/fauna/PhotoGallery/Bermuda/Bermuda-crustaceans-1.html 


Fishing and fishes of Bermuda

There are many types of sea fish, all similar to what are found off Florida and in the Caribbean, but none are indigenous to Bermuda. There are also blackish pond fish, killifish (see below), several of which are unique to Bermuda.

In sea fish, wahoo and yellowfin tuna are two of the most important species. They are also an important component of the offshore recreational fishery. Traditionally caught during their spring and fall "runs", these species pass by Bermuda during annual migrations that take them throughout the central Atlantic, although small individuals may remain in the area through the summer. It is thought that the Bermuda Seamount is an important feeding stop for these species during their long migratory journeys.

Fishes of Bermuda publication. 1999. Updated in 2013.

Bermuda Creole Wrasse 

In 2013 this species was declared by the Smithsonian Institution to be endemic to Bermuda but closely allied to its Caribbean cousin

Bermuda Fireworm or Glowworm 

Odontosyllis enopla, (glow worms). Two superb accounts. 

1. They are often scarce except in summer, can shine several times a year, including in August, especially at Ferry Reach. They produce a fine light display in shallow sandy waters, especially in its mating ritual. It is at its best on the third night after the full moon on a warm summer night and 53 minutes after sunset. Glowworms inhabit protected bays, living in silky mucus tubes amongst the sediment of rock-strewn seabeds. Often overlooked except on summer nights they dazzle onlookers with their magnificent natural light show. Female worms leave the safety of the rocky bottom and swim to the surface where they swarm in circular patterns, releasing a bright green luminescent substance intended to attract males. The rings of bright green light are amazing, but the light show gets even better when excited males make a frenzied dash towards their female targets. Upon making contact, males and females release an explosion of glowing gametes into the water in their sexual frenzy. The display lasts about 10 minutes. Males and females squirm and sperm in an orgasmic sudden green flash. The shallow bays of the panting sea creatures light up.  Then suddenly they shudder, gasp and are still. Sites for the show, not near electric lights,  have included the small bridge at the end of Ferry Reach Park, St. David's, Flatts and Ely's Harbour. Viewing is best three nights after a full moon. Fewer and fewer worms join in on succeeding nights. 

2. They only spawn at full moon, the girls literally 'light up' at the prospect of finding a mate, and dozens of tourists hang out in boats to watch them at it. This is  the weird and wonderful world of Bermuda's famous fireworms. They generally "dance and mate" between early August and early September. The female fireworm emits her strikingly beautiful green light as she whirls frantically in circles to attract a mate.  She releases her glowing eggs when he darts up and reaches the 'bull's eye' of her circle, producing a bright flash himself as he releases his sperm. According to scientific studies, it's a common occurrence for several males to be attracted to a single female, which results in them all rotating in a tight circle as the males discharge their sperm into the water. Spawning begins at full moon and reaches a peak three days afterwards. The females appear at the water's surface between 51 and 63 minutes after sunset in a display that only lasts a few minutes. The mesmerizing fireworms are actually marine relatives of the familiar earthworm and their Latin name – Odontosyllis enopla – translates as the toothed and necklaced worm." The creatures are only ten to 20 millimeters long and inhabit the sandy bottoms of Bermuda's bays and inlets, with Ferry Reach being one of the best spots to see them, according to seasoned worm watchers. The males are smaller than the females but have larger eyes, in keeping with their sensitivity to the light given off by the females. According to They are "equally stimulated by the beam from a flashlight. The green glow emitted by the fireworms – found throughout the tropical western Atlantic – is the product of bioluminescence, a light produced by a chemical reaction in a living organism. They only produce their dance of light during mating activities – although some scientists have observed that they also glow in response to being startled. Little is known about what exactly triggers the mating ritual which can be predicted with extraordinary accuracy and much mystery still surrounds these fascinating creatures. It's even been suggested that they were responsible for the strange patches of light seen by Christopher Columbus four hours before he first made landfall in America.

Bermuda sea shells

The largest and most complete collection of Bermuda shells to be found anywhere in the world was donated in October 2001 to the Natural History Museum at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. They were collected by retired banker Jack Lightbourn and his late colleague and friend Arthur Guest since 1965. There are about 7,700 species in all in the collection, with several endemic. 

One particularly interesting live shell is the Atlantic Trumpet Triton found in local waters. A Bermuda 40c stamp was issued to note it in philately

Atlantic Trumpet Triton stamp

Calico clams

A marine bivalve mollusk of the genus Macrocallista, especially M. nimbosa, having a smooth, thick, rounded shell marked with violet-brown or lilac spots or streaks. Not to be confused with scallops, these were once reared in Harrington Sound, in a Bermuda Government project. A protected species since 1978. They are under the sand.

Calico scallops  

The Atlantic calico scallop, Argopecten gibbus, is a species of medium-sized edible saltwater clam, specifically a scallop, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pectinidae. Sometimes known as Zigzag scallops, featured on a recent 45 cent Bermuda stamp, once reared in Harrington Sound, in a Bermuda Government project. They have been a protected species since 1978 in Bermuda but are eaten readily in other places.

Colettes Halfbeak

In 2014 the Smithsonian Institution declared this species of fish was endemic to Bermuda.

Conchs 

Residents and visitors should note that under the Fisheries (Protected Species) Order 1978, the Queen Conch (Strombus Gigas) and the Harbour Conch (Strombus Costatus) are illegal to import, an offence to purchase and possess and illegal to obtain and take from Bermuda waters.

The Queen Conch - the first of several endangered native species to receive Government protection. Strombus gigas was abundant in Bermuda until the late 1960s but by the end of the Seventies, populations had reached very low levels. At present, most of the Queen Conch in the Island's waters are 'old individuals', with substantial algal and coral growth. Few juveniles have been seen, raising concern for the species' survival. Although the species has been protected from removal from the water since the Fisheries Act 1978, it has only recently been listed under the Protected Species Act 2003 as "endangered". The Queen Conch is now the first subject of a series of action plans to conserve Bermuda's marine and terrestrial threatened species. Despite a complete ban from fishing and/or taking since 1978 under local laws, there has been no conservation programme for this species to date.

Great Land Crab 

Bermuda crabCardisoma Guanhumi. An illusive and rare species in Bermuda. The female can be nearly a foot long in width. One this size was caught in October 2001. 

It is quite common along the upper slope of  South Shore beaches, but most are smaller. 

It makes holes in the sand. 

The crab is nocturnal and can be found poking and digging around in the sand at night or on a very cloudy, blustery day at ebb tide. 

Its habitat in Bermuda (where it has been seen in the mangrove swamp area of Hungry Bay, Paget, is somewhat different to that of say, northern Florida. 

There, it usually includes glass worts (Salicornia sp.), salt meadow hay (Spartina alterniflora), sweet bay, (Magnolia virginiana), youpon (Ilex vomitoria), fiddler crabs (Uca sp), and an occasional raccoon (not present in Bermuda). 

Considered a highly prized food in the Caribbean, in stew pots, but not eaten in Bermuda. It is fortunate that one of its foods in the Caribbean, the poisonous fruit of the Manchineel tree, does not grow in Bermuda.

Keyhole Sand Dollar

Often but erroneously referred to as the Bermuda Sand Dollar, the Keyhole refers to three species of sand dollar in the genus Mellita that are dispersed along the east coast of the United States from Virginia to Brazil and also found along the coasts of Bermuda, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Mellita isometra is found along the east coast of the United States, Mellita tenuis is found along the gulf side of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Mellita quinquiesperforata is found from near the Mississippi Delta to Brazil. See it in shallow waters below tide lines in sandy bottoms, burrowing for protection from waves and predators, and to obtain food. It feeds on fine particles of organic matter they filter from the water. A flat version of  a sea urchin, reaching up to three inches in diameter and disk-like in shape. It differs greatly from the closely related cousin, however: the underside is usually flat or concave with the mouth directly in the center and the anus to one side. Its mouth is made up of five teeth arranged in a circle that form what is called, "Aristotle's lantern". Its skeleton is called a test and covered with an epidermis, spines (used in burrowing), tube feet (used for locomotion), and cilia. On its upper surface, petalloids (used as gills), specialized tube feet, are arranged in a pattern favoring five flower petals. Five oval shaped holes, called lunules, pierce the tests in keyhole urchins. There are two pairs of lunules, one pair toward the top and one large longer hole in between the second pair toward the bottom. Coloration of the keyhole sand dollar varies, including tan, brown, and occasionally grayish or green hue. The Sand dollar pass through several life stages. After eggs have been fertilized they develop into swimming larvae. It drifts in the sea water as plankton for four to six weeks, filtering tiny organisms. Juvenile keyhole urchins grow into adults, and live on the ocean floor. Natural enemies of the keyhole sand dollar are bottom feeding fishes

Killifish  

At least two species of killifish are endemic to Bermuda. Prior to 2005, very little was known about them. The Lover’s Lake killifish (Fundulus relictus) is found in saltwater ponds in the east end of the island. The Bermuda killifish (Fundulus bermudae) lives in both brackish and saltwater ponds from Hamilton Parish to Somerset. They are sometimes referred to as ‘mangrove minnows.’ The two species look identical, and grow to around 10cm long. The females are olive green, dark grey or light orange-brown with a light colored belly. Males are dark colored, and often with a yellow or gold belly. Both sexes may have vertical dark colored bars. In the breeding season. the males display an ocellus or eye spot, which is a dark spot circled with white on the dorsal fin. Killifish are a key part of the ecology of Bermuda’s ponds. They eat a variety of small prey, including mosquito larvae. They in turn are eaten by resident and migrant water birds (particularly herons) and larger fish such as freshwater eels and marine fish like snappers. Fundulus relictus and Fundulus bermudae are considered endangered, and were added to the Bermuda-protected species list in January 2012 as level 2 protected species. A Protected Species Recovery Plan for killifish was published in December 2012. The plan details the threats to killifish and actions needed to improve the conservation status of both species. Fundulus bermudae were first illustrated in Beebe and Tee-Van's 1933 "Field Book of Shore Fishes of Bermuda. " A favorite place is a fresh to brackish water pond, especially when fringed with mangroves. 

Lionfish

Beautiful but potentially deadly poisonous fish. It found its way to Bermuda from the Pacific in 2001 and was reported in a local newspaper on December 28, 2001 when one was caught off a local beach. It is about 12 inches long and was introduced to the Atlantic. There  have since been many sightings on Bermuda beaches. There are lots of different species. If you get one in your swim suit, you will be stung badly.

Lobsters

Really crayfish. Not indigenous. Very expensive. Biggest ever caught in Bermuda was in 1932, with a weight of 16 lbs. Second biggest was in 1983 of 15 lbs and with an arm span of five feet eight and a half inches. It is against the law to catch any from April 1 to August 31 each year and at other times only by residents specifically licensed to do so.

Portuguese Men of War

These dangerous stinging jellyfish are present on the ocean or a beach at certain times of year and should be avoided like the plague. 

Reefs

While coral reefs are common elsewhere, Bermuda is one of the northernmost areas in the Western Hemisphere. (But by no means the northernmost place in the world for coral reefs, as is commonly but mistakenly claimed, as there are cold-water and other coral reefs on the coastlines of Spain and Portugal throughout the northeast Atlantic, stretching north in the Irish sea, then due north, northwest and northeast all the way up to Norway). 

Cold-water corals form a rich habitat for deep-water species hunted by fishing trawlers mostly from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, France and Norway. Coral reefs alone cover an area twice the length of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. 

Only in all the islands of Bermuda, the islands of the Bahamas including Harbour Island and at least five places in Scotland is the sand pink, but not because of the warm water corals. It is untrue to say that Bermuda's beaches have coarser sand. In fact, the sand in Bermuda is exceptionally fine. Bermuda's coral reefs, from where the forams come, are in better condition than many Bahamas reefs. Many Caribbean reefs have the disease known as YBD. By comparison, there has been only one recorded case of YBD in Bermuda recently. Local coral diseases are mostly BBD, less infected, the majority of them brain corals.

Corals are the critical organisms in coral reefs formation because their calcium carbonate (limestone) skeletons create the framework of reefs that build up over thousands of years into a massive structure that supports the living corals and a great variety of other plant and animal life. 

 The coral Skolymia cubensis, not recorded until the 1970s, is now relatively common. 

Corals thrive in areas where strong wave action aerates the water, increasing the supply of food and oxygen. Waves also prevent silt from accumulating and suffocating the coral.

Reef types

Sea grasses

Very important to the marine ecosystem. They link mangrove communities to coral reefs. The four species in Bermuda are Thalassia testudinum (turtle grass);  Syringodium (manatee grass); Halodule wrightii (shoal grass, common) and Halophila decipiens (rare).

Seahorses

Three species have been recorded in Bermuda, Hippocampus reidi; Hippocampus erectus; and Hippocampus zosterae. Not endemic, now endangered or vulnerable, on the World Conservation Red List of Threatened Animals.

Seaweed

Newly discovered (2008) Botryocladia flookii seaweed, a type of seaweed that had never before been studied or catalogued, was named after Chris Flook, the collector of specimens and the Bermuda Lionfish Project coordinator for the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. Dr. Schneider and Dr. Lane, visiting scientists, published their findings about this in a 2008 copy of the scientific journal Phycologia. Dr. Lane is a professor of biology at the University of Rhode Island and has been to Bermuda many times. Dr. Schneider has been coming to Bermuda since the 1970's. Dr. Lane said Bermuda waters offer types of seaweed not found in the Caribbean. He noted that no original research had been done on the subject in more than 50 years which is why he and Dr. Schneider are working on cataloguing Bermuda's various types of seaweed. "It's a red seaweed commonly known as sea grapes. It is found in deeper water as well as at the low tide mark at coves. As far as we know this is the only place on the planet it is found."

Sharks

They usually stay beyond - not inside - the reefs but Bermuda's history records several deaths by swimmers in the 1900s. Unlike in Britain, they are not protected. When caught locally, their liver often becomes shark oil in home-made barometers.

Shrimp

In endangered caves, including

Only three of the seven known species in Bermuda have been traced recently.

Sponges

Commercially usable sponges were once common in in the waters of Harrington Sound but have died out completely.  

Starfish  

Copidaster lymani, are now native.

Yellowfin Chromis

In late 2013 the Smithsonian in Washington DC declared this species was endemic to Bermuda.

Whales

Bermuda is a sanctuary for whales - humpback, blue, northern - and dolphins in its 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone under the Fisheries (Protected Species) Order of the Fisheries Act. 

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Last Updated: October 29, 2014.
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