Nests, nests everywhere

September 17 – September 30
Michelle Wilcox and Robby Kohley

There are currently sixteen pairs of Millerbirds with nests on Laysan Island.  That is a new record since the species was reintroduced to Laysan last year.  Of the 24 birds that were moved to Laysan in 2011, we have six pairs that have turned right around after their most recent breeding attempt and started new nests.  This will be the fourth round of nesting attempts in 2012 for some of these Laysan veterans.  The newly translocated birds (released just over a month ago) have formed ten pairs – that we know about so far.  The most advanced nests could be hatching young any day.  Fall was an unproductive nesting season last year for Millerbirds so we are reserving our excitement and not counting our chicks before they hatch!

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Some of the juvenile males that fledged on Laysan earlier in the year are starting to sing and defend territories in their first attempts to mate.  We have not yet detected any females in their territories, but females can be much more difficult to detect as they quietly forage below the dense canopy of the shrub layer.  We call ourselves lucky when we find a female that actually makes call notes once in a while.

My (Michelle’s) ‘Nature Sight of the Week’ is a courting group of Red-tailed Tropicbirds.  While checking Millerbird nests last week at Tern Rise (one of the subtle landmarks we use to locate nests and territories), I heard many birds calling from above me.  I looked up to see five tropicbirds squawking and flying in a group like a Ferris wheel going backwards.  The front bird would fly higher and then backwards and drop in behind the others.  Then the tropicbird would point his two red, elongated central tail feathers first to the right, then to the left.  I have since learned that these flights take place above prospective nest sites, and eventually, one of the birds will land near the site as though trying to interest a mate in the location he has chosen.

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