Archive for June 4th, 2010

The Birds of Bird Island (as we know it), Tahanea Atoll

Friday, June 4th, 2010

There is a motu within Tahanea Atoll where no rats live.

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There are very few such places on the planet. Among thousands of micro-islands strewn like strands of pearls across the Tuamotu Archipelago, Bird Island is unusually rat free, and unusually bird infested.

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The primary residents are frigate birds,

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mysterious white terns with beguiling eyes that we’ll call Fairy terns


and mysterious delicate black birds that we’d like to  call the endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper but in fact must recognize as Black Noddys.


These noddys spend their days on other islands and can be seen crossing the atoll in great flocks to Bird Island each evening. When they get there they hang around in the trees and periodically hop up to fly around in circles.


The Fairy Terns like to sit inside the jungle canopy where it’s very hard to fly


they flit around with incredible speed


and hover in place…


until they find the perfect parking spot. Five minutes later they take off for a loop around the island and do it all over again.


The frigate birds are all “in the family way” or hoping to get there.


Ah, fatherhood!


These frigate-faced baby birds are fearless of the photographer.


There seem to be a couple of grades, some unhatched, some newly hatched


and some toddlers.


And while the frigate bird is not high on the list of birds with beautiful facial features,  they do improve with age.


Family rearing space is limited and drama does break out among the neighbors  when an adult comes home after a hard day of harassing terns and has to compete for a ladybird’s attention.

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16°52.33’S 144°47.40’W   03-Jun-10 00:59 UTC