Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday 190 - White Terns (Part 2)

Of all the birds I saw in Lord Howe, the White Terns (Gygis alba) were probably the most remarkable .  Just pure white, with a blue beak, they were always stunning to watch.  And their behaviour was even more remarkable (if thats possible).

Laying an egg and raising chicks on a bare branch without the slightest hint of a nest is just so unbelievable.  When I was there first, there were no chicks really making themselves seen. (You can see the pictures here).  Six weeks later there were chick to been seen.

Adult with chick
Adult with chick
If you look closely at the two picture above you can see a chick (a grey fluffy lump!) emerging from under the feathers of the adults.  I played a waiting game for a better view, but the terns won!

White Tern Chick 
White Tern Chick 
Eventually, I visited the nest site when the adults were away and got these images.  Before people start commenting about disturbance, this 'nest' was about five feet from the edge of a road, and right next to a foot path at eye level!  It would have been hard for the bird to have laid an egg in a busier place on this rather peaceful island!


This is a slightly larger chick - this one belongs to a different pair of adults than the one above.  As you can see from the angle of my shot, this one is a little over head hight, but was right next to the road.  Unfortunately, this chick did not make it through the week while I could watch it.  I found (what was left of) its body below this branch one morning.  Given that there are no cats on the island, the key suspects in this case are probably the rats on the island.

The chicks that survive grow quickly and shed the fluff!  But they do gain ginger 'smudges' on their plumage.
Juvenile White Tern
Eventually the birds become pure white as adults.  The colour casts you can see in the images below are caused by the birds reflecting coloured light from their surroundings.  I think this is most noticeable in the image of the bird about to land on the tree - where you can see a green cast on the feathers.  The adult birds in flight are a wonder to behold!






All of these pictures - but especially the flight shots - look better bigger - so, click on the images to enlarge them.

And now, for the 190th time, it's your turn.  Click on the blue button and off you go.

48 comments:

Modesto Viegas said...

Great post. Well done!!!

Phil Slade said...

Hi Stewart.From here on the other side of the world I hear - oohs and aaahs!

It seems remarkable that some quirk of evolution made the species nest on open branches like that. Presumably there were ground preadators but not many predators in total to take such risks.

Adam Jones said...

It's an absolute beauty. Superb shots Stewart.

Silver Parrot said...

These birds were gorgeous the first time you shared them and are even more so in this post - the babies are so cute!

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

Remarkable and beautiful birds, and a very interesting narrative.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Stunners! YAM xx

HOOTIN ANNI said...

Those chicks MELT MY HEART!!!!

firaszphotography said...

Brilliant series! Well timed, well done.

Cheers )

Frank Boxell said...

Excellent flight shots and very intriguing nesting location.

Anne Hagman-Niilola said...

A really beautiful bird. Small fluffy chick is cute. Here, the tree sparrow nest start making nest boxes. How did they survive in the snow and freezing temperatures.

Nora said...

These photos are so extraordinary Stewart. I think these are my favorite photos! I like the little tiny chick.

Marilyn Kircus said...

This is one of the most stunning blogs you have done. Thanks for spending the time to capture all those beautiful images and to tell us about the birds.

Breathtaking said...

Hello Stewart!:) Wow! How lovely these White Terns are! Your enlarged photos of them in flight are truely breathtaking. A very enlightening post about their nesting habits and all your images are fantastic,...loved seeing the chicks.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I'm amazed daily by the beauty in nature. Understanding the cycle of life doesn't help accepting such a cute thing dying so early though :(

Pieni Lintu said...

Lovely and cute fluffy birds!

Gunilla Bäck said...

Beautiful birds! The chick is adorable.

Jo said...

What breathtaking images, Stewart, Thanks for sharing the nesting photos and the ones of the birds in flight are always so beautiful to me as well. Thanks for hosting this meme. I'll link with my post tomorrow (Wednesday). Greetings Jo

Linda W. said...

Those little fluffy chicks are adorable! Great photos!

Gayle atMuldoon said...

The chicks are adorable and they don't appear disturbed by your presence.

Brian King said...

Very striking plumage and the chicks are little fuzzballs! Great flight shots!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

They are stunning birds ... Pure white really is beautiful. Crazy that they seem so elegant and yet behave in ways that seem so sloppy in their nesting habits. (But I am humanizing again. (I still can't spell that better word that starts with an "A" even though I just used it in a post. )

Liz said...

What beautiful birds! I love Terns. The chicks are extremely cute and your flight shots are wonderful!
190 WBW linkups is quite an achievement! Thanks for hosting.

Chandra@GreenComotion said...

Outstanding photos of a very lovely selection of birds, Stewart!
And, some sharp beaks they have!!
Really enjoyed this post - thanks for hosting.
Have a Happy Day!
Peace :)

Anu said...

Congratulations on the White stern! Great shots! Photos of the chick are so beautiful!

diane b said...

Fabulous shots of the terns. I didn't realise how white they were. The chicks are scruffy cute.

Lea said...

Cute chicks, and the in-flight photos are wonderful!

Andrea Priebe said...

It is not hard to imagine why these beautiful Terns are a favorite. Their color (or lack thereof) accentuates their aerodynamic form ... they are simply beautiful. And as for the babies ... someone needs to invent a word for cuter than cute. Sad that one didn't make it, but that is nature for you. It always tests my patience by it's killing ways ... but, I have learned to accept that as the way to keep the balance. If man would just keep his greedy ways out of the balance, our world would be a better place. Wonderful post, Stewart, and I see we have started the count down to #200. Hard to imagine, but quite an accomplishment.

Andrea @ From The Sol

Janet said...

Sweet Baby Terns! Great Shots!

andyslens said...

Wonderful post.

TheChieftess said...

What beautiful birds...and how interesting about their nests and chicks! Love the Terns in flight!!

Missy George said...

Wonderful shots Stewart..Beautiful birds..Love the chicks!!

Marie C said...

Incredible photos, Stewart! Oh what lovely birds! How sad about the little juvenile! It was great the other nest was so accessible, but I sure hope those chicks make it! I've always wondered why cardinals don't die out...they nest very low and there are always cats! (In this case, probably rats). Sad.

Rhodesia said...

Stunning photos and I just love the chicks. The eyeshadow looks quite heavy :-) Have a ggod day Diane

TexWisGirl said...

gorgeous! precious chicks.

Mama Zen said...

Spectacular shots, Stewart! The chicks are just adorable!

JP A Quiet Corner said...

Stewart, I never knew there even were White Terns!! I will say that I am looking forward to seeing some of the birds of Aruba while on vacation...:)JP

pattisjarrett said...

What beautiful birds! And in every stage, too. The chicks are adorable! Sorry to hear one chick didn't make it. I know a large number of young birds don't survive, but it's kind of sad.

Dave Lewis said...

Beauties Stewart! Beauties!

CountryMouse said...

The chicks are adorable and your in flight pics are amazing.

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

These are absolutely exquisite! Such a treat to see those little chicks.

Linda said...

Fantastic post! I'm sorry that the one chick didn't make it.

Chris Rohrer said...

Oh my gosh!!! That photo of the chick is adorable! Nature is crazy. You hope for the best and realize that not every bird will make it:(

Nathalie Santa Maria said...

Amazing picture Stewart. Right, this bird is remarkable.

Sami Niilola said...

Beautiful pictures.

Denise inVA said...

Brilliant and beautiful bird! Fantastic photos!

David Gascoigne said...

I am truly impressed with this. There are certain iconic birds that seem to stick in one's head and I can remember the first nature show on television where I was made aware of their curious habit of laying a single egg on an exposed branch. I would have loved to have been with you to experience this species.

NatureFootstep said...

this is such a beautiful bird. and the chick,, adorable!

Connie Smiley said...

Interesting stuff, how they are raised without a nest! You got great shots; I love the little fluff balls with light shining through their feathers, and your birds in flight are gorgeous. Interesting, too, about the green tint.