Lord Howe Island birds (part 3)

Continuing from my previous post

Lord Howe doesn’t have many resident land birds, and the seabirds mostly come to the island only to breed. A summary of the 14 seabird species that breed there is here.

Ian Hutton’s book, “Birds of Lord Howe Island“, has a handy reference chart showing the months of egg-laying and chick-raising. There’s also a nature calendar on the web.

For instance, the fairy-tale cute white terns (Gyris alba) …

White terns begin to lay eggs in September, and raise chicks until mid-May.

… lay one egg per pair on the bare branch of the pine trees. I have to wonder how many eggs just fall off in high winds. But these birds are plentiful and easy to observe on the island, so their system must be working. The chicks are raised until about mid-May. Adults and young leave in June when the winter gales arrive.

The flesh-footed shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes, also known as Puffinus carneipes, or commonly the muttonbird) feed at sea during the day and return to their holes in the forest at night. I’ll talk more about them in a later post, as they have quite a strong presence in parts of the island (estimated at about seventeen and a half thousand breeding pairs in 2005).

Muttonbird resting on the road before dashing into the forest to find its hole

Female muttonbirds usually lay one egg each per year from November to January, and raise the chick in their burrows until May-ish. Then they all fly north for the winter.

November is generally a good time to see the breeding birds. The weather is relatively stable and many of the species are well into their breeding cycles. The petrels, though, tend to start more into December.

There were probably thousands of sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscata) and their chicks on Ned’s Beach or in the short vegetation above the beach.

One of the thousands of sooty terns nesting on the east coast of Lord Howe

Sooty terns are active and noisy during the day

Sooty tern chicks are usually hidden in the long grass

I saw the occasional scuffle break out if an adult that presumably was not a parent got too close to a chick.

Keep your distance, buster!

Red-tailed tropicbirds (Phaethon rubricanda)  do a strange sort of backwards-flying mating dance, with the pair circling around each other but facing in the same direction. It’s hard to describe but impressive to see.

Red-tailed tropicbird

There were several Australasian gannets (Morus serrator) wheeling around over the Clear Place …

Australasian gannet

There are more breeding seabird species on Lord Howe, but I’ve only mentioned the ones I managed to get pictures of. I’ll next post on the marine life.

This entry was posted in Birds, Travels and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lord Howe Island birds (part 3)

  1. Kathy says:

    Great shots, Joy. It really is a bird haven.

    • Joy Window says:

      Thanks, Kathy. If I’d gone up Malabar or Mt Eliza I would probably got shots of other species, but more or less confined myself to the centre of the island this time. Maybe a fourth visit in the future …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s