A most wonderful experience, while exploring the rugged coastline of Norfolk Island, was watching and listening to the flight of the Red-tailed Tropicbird, which many of you will recognize as my avatar. It was the bird that drew me into birdwatching as a recreational pursuit. My wife and I came up close to this bird here more so than ever before, with the added blessing of seeing the birds nesting and baby birds in various stages of development. Here is footage where we share some of our excitement at Rocky Point in the Hundred Acre Reserve, which we share in this post as a birders haven. These birds flew right over us continually with their unique call.
This bird seldom frequents human habitation and is mainly found on the rugged sea cliffs of the pacific islands in tropical and sub-tropical waters. It spends much of its time on the wing and has a reputation for its courting antics where it performs aerial acrobatics and the male impresses the female by flying backwards. This is partly made possible by the red streamer/s (tail) that protrudes from its backside. One of the birds in the video above and the first bird below has not yet gained its streamer, as a sign of full maturity.
From a distance this bird can be confused with a specie of Tern or Gull, but on close inspection the red tail and black feet give it away. Walking through the 100 Acre Reserve near the sea cliff, at the foot of Norfolk Pine trees we found several new born, juvenile and immature Tropicbirds. We saw several on nests incubating eggs, and one returning to its nest quite alarmed at our presence.
An interesting find was this single juvenile Tropicbird which nobody noticed while filming the bridge, in an alcove of a pine visible near the famous convict built bridge (click on the name to find out the history of its name) Bloody Bridge.
Here it sits undisturbed by the many who pass by.
Another special sea bird which is found in the south pacific islands including Lord Howe Island (which I have previously blogged) is the beautiful White Tern, which has the very unique custom of laying its eggs only in the Norfolk Pine tree. It does not build a nest but lays the egg directly onto the tree branch high up, leaving it balancing there until it hatches. Interesting enough it survives very well, much better here than in Lord Howe where the mainland Pied Currawong hunts its eggs and rats. It has only introduced rats to contend with here which are in process of being eradicated. You may remember these pictures from Lord Howe Island, which also has many Norfolk Pines.
This beautiful Tern is ghost-like in appearance and is found flying constantly around the Norfolk Pines making its own familiar sound. It is often found in pairs flying in beautiful synchronous flight.
As we stood on the sea cliffs we saw the White Terns, Red-tailed Tropicbird and White-capped (Black) Noddy fishing together.
We observed a continuous toing and froing of the White Tern parents constantly bringing small fish to their young waiting in the nearby Norfolk Pine branches.
The other bird that breeds on the island is the White-capped Noddy or Black Noddy as it is known. These birds nest also in the Norfolk Pine in large numbers in the 100 Acre Reserve, but they build simple nests of dry grass. These birds constantly fly about us to distract us as we walk through their nesting area. Their nests seem to hang in the branches in an amazing way.
Also in the 100 Acre reserve were many Shearwater holes. We had observed the Wedge-tailed Shearwater return one night to its holes after sunset, but we did not have a strong enough light to get good footage. There are many shearwater (muttonbird) holes around the cliff sides of the island, as is the case with many of the pacific islands. These birds nest in holes in the ground which they return to (the very same hole) every spring from Alaska, migrating back in winter. The other rarely seen large sea bird we saw in various stages of maturity (because it also breeds on the island during summer) is the Masked Booby.
Again as with the Tropicbird the young allowed us to get close without concern. The fluffy birds are the juvenile and the immature have the dark band around their neck. The Lesser Frigatebird, a recent visitor to the island, constantly checks out the the baby birds and the birds bringing food back to their babies. Thee birds are known to harass birds carrying food to make them to regurgitate their catch and steal it from them.
The Frigatebird is one of the largest sea birds and the lesser the smaller version of the Great Frigatebird. The male has a red baloon like feature on its chest which it blows up to attract the female. The female has a white chest lacking this apparel. These birds were seen cruising the coast constantly and often perching close to the Booby babies.
One last lone nester near the Masked Booby nesting site was this White-necked Petrel.
As we explored the coast around the island we were so blessed with seeing these beautiful ocean birds fishing and just flying around for the fun of it. It was such a peaceful and enjoyable experience watching them playing above the rugged cliffs and rough ocean waves below. It just reminded us both of God’s beautiful peace and delight which the birds so beautifully personified for us.
Have a truly restful weekend and an interesting and inspiring week.
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyright property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018