Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lord Howe Island - White terns

The white terns nest in the Norfolk Island Pines close to the row of boat sheds along Lagoon Beach. This is close to a flurry of cottages which provide a bit of protection to the terns from the predations of owls and rats. A number of times I saw the carcass of a White Tern where the owl had ripped out the juicy breast mid-flight.

Ooo they are a pretty bird, a delicate bird, a fragile bird. And sooo white ... They lay their egg balanced on a limb of the pine, open to the elements. Islanders have banded together so that after strong winds, they scout around early in the morning and ensure that eggs and young are replaced on branches, out of the way of you-know-who.

Length 30cm and weight 110gm. White all over, thin black circle around eyes, forked tail. Eggs hatch in 28 days. Plucks small fish and squid from the surface. Swift, rapid wingbeats, parallel courtship flights.

So, how did we get so close to the chick? His location was well-known to our guide (shall introduce you to our guides tomorrow). He was sitting on a fence post beneath an overhanging tree, at the rear of the town meeting place. He had been there for a couple of weeks and would remain there until about the 70th day when he would fly off with his parent.


altadenahiker said...

Lovely birds. Lovely islanders.

Kay L. Davies said...

Hard to believe they lay the egg on a branch, and then the chick has to live on the branch for 70 days. Very, very fragile birds. The chick is so sweet, and the adults are so beautiful.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Ann said...

Wow. Julie, these are amazing. You have improved so much. Have only seen the beautiful adults, never a chick.

By the way, my Adelaide people shots were at least 2 years ago, would you believe.

freefalling said...

Look at that little face in the first shot - so sweet and beautiful - he looks like Alannah!

I wonder why they thought it was a good idea to lay their eggs on a branch.

Pat Tillett said...

Beautiful photos! The one with the bird and fish is really nice!