Defending Territories and Buildling Nests


September 3 – September 16
Michelle Wilcox and Robby Kohley

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Fig. 1: One of the second group of Millerbirds translocated to Laysan peeks from the naupaka.

The newest group of 26 Millerbirds on Laysan Island (all present and accounted for) is defending territories, pairing up and building nests. Nine pairs are exhibiting some stage of early nesting behavior. Last year’s translocated birds also attempted breeding about a month after they arrived, but their attempts were unsuccessful. We are hoping that the combination of a wet, green, insect-filled landscape, the timing of molt and the presence of other breeding Millerbirds on the island will combine to make this year’s fall attempts more successful.

Of the six nests that were active at the end of John Vetter’s term, three have fledged six new young Millerbirds. That brings the total count of free-flying Millerbirds hatched on Laysan to 23! That’s almost as many birds as we brought to the island in 2011 after an absence of about 90 years! Now that we have added more Nihoa birds to the mix those numbers should keep on growing. 

A number of Pacific Ocean storms passed over us this week, which brought an influx of shorebirds to the island.  Robby has spotted over 40 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Ruff, 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Plover, 3 Lesser Yellowlegs species, and five Cattle Egrets (bad news, since Cattle Egrets eat the chicks of nesting seabirds). This is in addition to the high numbers of Pacific Golden-Plovers, Wandering Tattlers, and Ruddy Turnstones that have been here since their breeding seasons ended in Alaska.

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Fig. 2: The brown noddy (Anous stolidus) is one of the many seabird species nesting on Laysan.

My (Michelle’s) ‘Nature Sighting of the Week’ is my voyeuristic encounter of two Brown Noddies, which stood facing each other with their heads on each others shoulders neck-to-neck (if only their wings could have wrapped around each other, they could have been hugging) and PURRING to each other! Now, the Brown Noddies make a slew of raucous calls, screeches, and ear-piercing whines, but I had never heard them make this low-toned cooing sound. Witnessing it made me stop along my path as though I had hit a wall, it was so sweet and private that I felt like I should shut a door and leave them alone.

One response to “Defending Territories and Buildling Nests

  1. Great stuff Michelle, Glad to see you are still doing wonderful stuff. Cris and I have had some great adventures, but nothing line what you are doing!! Keep it up. Love, Bill and Cris Fuller

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