These Lesser Noddy Terns, Anous tenuirostris, are permanent New Caledonia residents. New Caledonia has 197 species of birds and 51 of these are sea birds. 25 sea bird species are permanent residents of New Caledonia and 26 species migrate through the islands every year, coming from as far away as Siberia. Three of the endemic seabirds of New Caledonia are endangered and two of the worldwide species are in decline – but these Noddy Terns, Anous tenuirostris, are abundant. They nest on the beautiful coral islets of the New Caledonia lagoon and the government has set the most important nesting areas aside as special reserves.
The government has posted signs saying no dogs or cats are allowed on the islands and that visitors to the island must stay at least 40 meters away from the birds and their nesting areas.
The Noddy terns get up early, flying off in little flocks at dawn to hunt small fish and squid that come to the surface – often chased by bigger fish from beneath. They fly most of the day, looking for fish striking, then they plunge into the sea to grab their prey. At sunset, as they return from a hard day's fishing, they make a most astonishing amount of noise – gossiping and arguing between themselves, each trying to be loud enough to be heard over the general din.
New Caledonia seabirds breed between October and April. Just before breeding, Noddy terns ingest sand and small pieces of coral from the beach to provide extra calcium for the eggs. They build their nests in the beach trees from seaweed and grass. This image was taken on Ua Island, one of the many anchorages
in New Caledonia where pleasure-boaters enjoy close encounters with sea birds.