A crescent-shaped chain of 184 islands that once formed the outer edge of a volcano, the remote island of Bermuda isn’t one that’s particularly known for its wildlife. However, a unique collection of animals has sprung up over the years, either introduced by humans or having walked, swam or flown of their own accord, resulting in a fascinating ecosystem waiting to be discovered.
Wildlife lovers will love the opportunity to spot over 360 species of recorded birds and nearly 8,000 species of fauna and flora. In fact, some of the animals are so unique that they’re even endemic to the island - meaning that they cannot be found anywhere else on earth. We present to you some of the most unique wildlife to be found in Bermuda…
Perhaps unlike other parts of the Caribbean, Bermuda isn’t known for having exceedingly rare and unusual wildlife – unless you count the ancient, and now extinct, hogs that once roamed the island and resulted in the creation of the famous Bermudan Hog Penny. Which, you absolutely should.
Instead, the isle is home to a plethora of birds, plants and insects – you won’t find any big land mammals here. But you will find a range of creatures and plant life that are completely unique to the island.
The Bermuda petrel, also known as the Bermuda Cahow, is a native bird that was believed to have disappeared for over 300 years after human habitation and the arrival of mammals on the island. Rediscovered in 1951, these nocturnal birds only breed in Bermuda and are only around today due to careful conservation management. They have now been declared an endangered species.
You'll recognize a Bermuda Petrel by its greyish-black shoulders, darker upper wings and its white belly and upper-tail. It is known for its haunting mating call.
While Bermuda is home to several species of land lizard, the Bermuda Skink, also known as the Bermuda Rock Lizard, is the only reptile that is truly unique to the island. Dark and shiny in color, they have a lighter stomach and a bright orange patch on their throat. Interestingly, the babies are born with blue tails to distract predators that are distracted by the colorful tails and go for the kill at the wrong side of the body – leaving the babies to escape without their tail that they can soon regrow. Bermuda Skinks can often be found sunning themselves on the rocks in the Spittal Pond Reserve or along the coastline. Often falling prey to cats and rats, the Bermuda Skink are officially endangered and protected on the island of Bermuda.
Bermuda Buckeye Butterfly
The Bermuda Buckeye Butterfly is a treasure of a species that is endemic to the island. Amongst an impressive collection of 1,100 different kinds of insects and spiders (including 41 endemic insects), Bermuda's pride and joy has to be its colorful butterflies – at least with regards to the insect world.
Flitting between bushes and plants, you’ll often spot the iconic Monarch butterfly and over 200 recorded species of moth. The migratory Bermuda Buckeye is the island’s only native butterfly and can be identified by its light brown coloring, orange or yellow markings, red chevrons and large eyespots.
Also known as the Bermuda Singers, the Bermuda Cicadas are easily recognized by the loud chattering sound they make when they are trying to attract females. While cicadas have one of the largest life spans of any insect, sadly these particular types of cicadas are feared to be almost extinct on the island of Bermuda. This is thought to be caused by the removal of the Cedar trees on which they lived.
Bermuda Cave Shrimp
First discovered by cave divers in 1985, Bermuda Cave Shrimp are completely unique to Bermuda but as they’re fairly difficult to get to, they are not often spotted. If you have a chance to dive beneath the waves, we would highly recommend it as these fascinating creatures are protected by conservation law because they are critically endangered. There is no telling how much longer they will be around.
The only surviving species of land snails in Bermuda are island natives – and incredibly rare. Believed to have colonized the island over 300,000 years ago, these land snails make up a whopping 95% of Bermuda’s land fossils. While there are plenty of other Bermudan snails, the rest can all be found in the ocean.
The national bird of Bermuda, the Longtail is an unusual tropical seabird that’s a common sight on the island. They are often huddled in hordes together and are easily distinguished from the rest by their single white tail feather. Today, the bird has become a national symbol for the island.
Unsurprisingly, the beautiful crystal-clear waters off the coast of Bermuda are a haven for five species of sea turtles, most commonly the green turtle. But you may also catch a glimpse of four other species in the waters here including Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Kemps’ Ridley and Leatherback turtles. And if you venture on land, there are also the diamondback terrapins, which are land-based turtles native to Bermuda.
Non-Native Wildlife in Bermuda
Whale watchers will be in their element in Bermuda during the months of March and April when Humpback Whales migrate past Bermuda’s coastline towards the north Atlantic. Time your visit just right and you may be lucky enough to witness – and photograph – their incredible water acrobatics, from breaching and mating calls to theatrical flipper dances.
While the waters off the coast of Bermuda are often frequented by a variety of shark, the largest of which is the Tiger Shark. Two other commonly sighted species are the Dusky and Galapagos Sharks. But divers and swimmers don’t have to worry too much – these sharks are rarely spotted close to the shore.
Portuguese Man of War
If you spot these funky looking creatures in the water near you, it’s best you paddle fast back to shore. Recognised by their purple-blue coloring and long tentacles, these jellyfish are poisonous to humans and a sting from just one tentacle is incredibly painful. Luckily, they are not often spotted in the water and usually only get close enough to shore after strong storms.
Bermuda Whistling Frogs
If you’re walking around Bermuda at night, keep your ears peeled for the sound of the Bermuda Tree Frog, also known as “whistling frogs”. These tree-dwelling amphibians come from Barbados and Grenada and were first recorded in Pembroke around the 1880s. They are about the size of a fingernail and are a common night sound to be heard between the months of April and November.
The Jamaican Anole, also known as Graham’s Anole or the Turquoise Anole, is a lizard that hails from Jamaica. It was the first Anolis species of lizard to be introduced to Bermuda. It is now one of the most common lizard species on the island.
This species is considered one of the most beautiful of its kind. Its colors are striking, with rich emeralds or aquamarine as the main colors of the body and deep blue legs and tails. The dewlap, or flap of skin beneath its jaw, is a bright orange. Females and younger lizards will have their colors more muted while mature males will show their colors vibrantly.
The Anole was introduced in 1905 by an agricultural director who thought they would be good for controlling the fruit fly population. What he didn’t count on was that they are a territorial species and are now taking over the beloved Bermuda Skink. There are conservation efforts to bring this species under control.
As an island with limited natural resources, it’s understandable that most of the mammals and plant life in Bermuda was brought here by humans. However, a few migratory species do exist on the island and this includes four species of bats from North America.
While in Bermuda, you may spot some unusual nightlife activity in the sky – the island has become host to the Hoary, Seminole, Eastern Red and Silver-haired Bat.
Conservation Efforts in Bermuda
The preservation of Bermuda’s unique wildlife is owed largely to the excellent conservation efforts on the island. Did you know that Bermuda was one of the first countries to pass a conservation law? They passed legislation protecting the rare Bermuda petrel in 1616, followed by the Bermuda Cedar in 1622.
Today, the island is home to protected ground such as Spittal Pond, Hungry Bay Mangrove Swamp, Warwick Pond, Lovers Lake, the marshes in Paget and Devonshire as well as the hills above Castle Harbour. There are also strict laws in place to protect endangered animals, birds, plants, trees, fish and coral reef.
Which unique wildlife are you most looking forward to spotting on your next visit to Bermuda?