Black noddy

Anous minutus Boie, 1844

Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Sternidae

New Zealand status: Native

Conservation status: Naturally Uncommon

Other names: white-capped noddy

Geographical variation: Seven subspecies have been named, with nominate minutus ranging from Papua New Guinea and northern Australia east to Samoa and the Tuamotu archipelago, including Lord Howe, Norfolk and the Kermadec Islands.

Black noddy. Adult on nest. North Meyer Islet, Kermadec Islands, November 1966. Image © Department of Conservation (image ref: 10043421) by Don Merton Courtesy of Department of Conservation

Black noddy. Adult on nest. North Meyer Islet, Kermadec Islands, November 1966. Image © Department of Conservation (image ref: 10043421) by Don Merton Courtesy of Department of Conservation

The black noddy is one of three dark noddy species, the others being the brown noddy and lesser noddy. Adult birds are sooty black with a white cap, the reverse of most terns, which are typically pale with a black cap. Black noddies are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical seas, other than Western Australia and the Indian Ocean, where it is replaced by the lesser noddy (A. tenuirostris). About 2,200 pairs breed in New Zealand at the Kermadec Islands. Stragglers rarely reach northern waters of the North Island, from the Three Kings Islands to Northland and Waikato. Black noddies are graceful and buoyant in flight. They have a long, slender, black bill that is about a third longer than the head.

The name noddy is derived from animated courting displays in which both birds repeatedly nod at one another. 

Identification                                                                                       

The black noddy is a medium-sized sooty black tern with contrasting white head cap that grades into grey on the neck. It has a slender, sharply-pointed black bill, a white crescent below the dark round eye, and a white spot above it. The wings are long and pointed (66 - 72 cm wingspan), and the tail wedge-shaped. The short legs are red-brown to yellow-brown with dull orange or dull pink webbing. The sexes are alike. Juveniles have greyish feathers on the upper wings.

Voice: rapid harsh rattling calls and sharp kerr or kik-kirrik. Chicks beg with hissing see-ew.

Similar species: the brown noddy is larger, heavier and browner, with a greyish-white cap, a shorter, stouter bill and pale central panels on the underwings.

Distribution and habitat

The black noddy breeds in colonies on tropical and subtropical islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and the Caribbean Sea. It breeds on sea cliffs, in caves, in trees and on shrubby vegetation, and on the ground, on both low-lying sandy atolls and high rocky islands. Outside the breeding season black noddies usually remain near nesting islands, but occasionally cross open sea to other islands. They forage in flocks over coral lagoons, coastal waters, and up to 80 km offshore. In New Zealand, black noddies breed at the Kermadec Islands on North and South Meyer Islets off Raoul Island, on L'Esperance Rock, and on Macauley, Curtis and Cheeseman Islands. Their non-breeding movements are poorly known, apparently being resident at some islands, and a seasonal visitor to others. Some Fiji breeders disperse west through the Solomon Islands. Black noddies rarely stray to mainland New Zealand waters, where there are about a dozen records from northern waters off the Three Kings Islands and Northland, and south to Farewell Spit.

Population

The total global population of black noddies is estimated at 200,000 pairs, with 2,200 pairs breeding in New Zealand.

Threats and conservation

Introduced rats and feral cats extirpated black noddies on Raoul Island, and were in turn eradicated by the Department of Conservation in 2002. The global population appears to be stable with an expanding breeding range and population on islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Many other populations are declining or have been eradicated due to human hunting and habitat loss. Birds are harvested as food in Micronesia and Tokelau, and vegetation clearance has destroyed nesting habitat on other islands. Most populations on the Hawaiian Islands are protected and monitored; elsewhere in the region there have been few efforts to protect seabirds. Where laws exist that restrict or prohibit hunting or egg collection, enforcement is challenging or inadequate. The IUCN Red List classifies the black noddy as Least Concern. The Department of Conservation classifies it as naturally uncommon, range restricted, and secure overseas.

Breeding

Black noddies are colonial breeders, with breeding dates varying between years at the Kermadec Islands. Courtship includes paired flights, mutual head nodding on the ground, and males courtship-feeding their mates. The single pale, streaked egg is laid August-January, mostly in October-November. The nest is usually a substantial scruffy-looking platform with a shallow depression in the centre, made of sticks, leaves and seaweed, held together with guano, and built in the fork of a pohutukawa tree or in ngaio scrub. Both adults incubate for 30 - 37 days and care for the chick. An adult guards the chick during the first days or weeks after hatching. The chick fledges 48-60 days after hatching, then returns to the nest to be fed by its parents for several weeks. There is a high rate of nest failure, but pairs are able to produce a second egg if they lose the first.

Behaviour and ecology

Black noddies forage during the day in small to large flocks of 20-3000 birds. They fly low over the water, hovering, dipping and pattering their feet on the surface, seizing prey while remaining airborne, or dipping the bill into water, usually without submerging. They are dependent on predatory fish, such as tuna, to drive prey species to the surface. Black noddies also pirate food from other seabirds. Foraging occurs by day and probably also at night, with peaks of activity at the colony in the early morning and evening. Black noddies roost at colonies during the middle of the day and during the night.

Food

Black noddies feed on small fish and squid caught at the surface, and pirate food from other seabirds. They have been recorded eating caterpillars and juvenile sea snakes.

Weblinks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Noddy

http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3295

References

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds). 1996. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3, hoatzin to auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 1996. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Viking, Auckland.

Higgins, P.J.; Davies, S.J.J.F. (eds) 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand, and Antarctic birds. Vol. 3, snipe to pigeons. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Robertson, C.J.R. (ed.). 1985. The complete book of New Zealand birds. Reader's Digest. Australia.

Robertson, H.A; Baird, K.; Dowding, J.E.; Elliott, G.P.; Hitchmough, R.A.; Miskelly, C.M.; McArthur, N.; O’Donnell, C.F.J.; Sagar, P.M.; Scofield, R.P.; Taylor, G.A. 2017. Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2016. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 19. Wellington, Department of Conservation. 27p.

Taylor, G. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Part B: non-threatened seabirds. Threatened Species Occasional Publication No.10. Department of Conservation. New Zealand.

Tennyson, A.J.D. 2010. Lari. Pp. 223-243. In Checklist Committee (OSNZ) 2010. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica (4th edn). Ornithological Society of New Zealand & Te Papa Press, Wellington.

Veitch, C.R.; Miskelly, C.M.; Harper, G.A.; Taylor, G.A.; Tennyson, A.J.D. 2004. Birds of the Kermadec Islands, south-west Pacific. Notornis 51: 61-90.

Veitch, C.R.; Gaskin, C.P.; Baird, K.A.; Ismar, S.M.H. in press: Changes in bird numbers on Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands, New Zealand, following the eradication of goats, rats, and cats. In Veitch, C.R.; Clout, M.N.; Towns, D.R. (eds): Proceedings of the Island Invasives: Eradications and Management Conference, 2010, Auckland. IUCN (World Conservation Union), Gland, Switzerland.

Recommended citation

Szabo, M.J. 2013 [updated 2017]. Black noddy. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Black noddy

Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Maximum dispersal
2900 km

Black noddy

Social structure
monogamous
Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Nest type
ground-level platform, raised platform
Nest description
Robust scruffy looking platform with shallow depression at centre made of sticks, leaves and seaweed held together with guano.
Nest height (min)
0.00 m
Maximum number of successful broods
2
Clutch size (mean)
1
Mean egg dimensions (length)
44.00 mm
Mean egg dimensions (width)
31.00 mm
Egg colour
White to creamy-buff to reddish-brown or purplish-grey streaks and blotches
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Interval between eggs in a clutch
Not applicable
Incubation behaviour
shared
Incubation length (mean)
30-37 days
Incubation length (min)
30days
Incubation length (max)
37days
Nestling type
semi-precocial
Nestling period (mean)
48-60 days
Nestling period (min)
48 days
Nestling period (max)
60days
Age at fledging (mean)
48-60 days
Age at fledging (min)
48days
Age at fledging (max)
60days
Age at independence (mean)
>60 days
Age at first breeding (typical)
Unknown
Maximum longevity
Relatively long lived
Maximum dispersal
2,900 km