Cousin Island Seabird Top Trumps

ImageParenting: Top points go to White-tailed Tropicbirds for the most successful parenting with 57% of chicks fledging. Whilst the White Terns and Lesser Noddys had significant losses throughout the chick rearing process the worst parenting goes to the Brown Noddy. Surveillance of a Brown Noddy Colony on one site showed some rather worrying behavior; Chicks were perhaps too close to other parents resulting in chick swapping, chick sitting, chick abandonment and chick murder! The result was eventually all chicks in this area were dead before reaching C2 stage.
Which are the coolest of the seabirds? Well in my opinion there is simply something about the Sooty Tern that makes it the most stylish; its sleek and clear black and white colouring and sharp shapely wings makes it the Ferrari of the seabird world. Coming close second would be the Tropicbird with its unique look and long tail feathers they really are a striking site against the sky backdrop.

ImageCuteness: This of course is a completely non-biased decision and should really be split between adult and young birds. The cutest adult bird without any competition is the Tropical Shearwater, they would make a fantastic cuddly toy for children! For young birds it’s a hard call as all of them are cute, the white-tern is the most angelic and gets top points though!

ImageFlying: The most impressive flyers would have to be the Fregate Birds, soaring up high with seamlessly no effort and gliding down to harass Terns out of their catch. My personal favorite flyers to watch are the Wedge-tail Shearwaters, the speed and agility in which they skim the ocean surface and change track is sensational. Really none of the Cousin seabirds can be accused of ‘bad’ flying but sometimes the Tropicbirds do seem to use a lot of effort getting up above the canopy.

Landing: I’ll start with the worst landers, the Wedge-tail Shearwaters, because as spectacular as they are at flying they are equally spectacularly bad at landing! The Terns collectively are the masters of landing gracefully.

ImagePhotogenic: Least photogenic goes to Tropic-bird chicks because when you go near them with a camera they make a blood-curling noise! In my experience the White-Terns are the easiest to get good photographs of because they hover above you when you disturb them from a branch.

ImageNoise: Seabirds are noisy. They provide a cocophony on Cousin Island like no other. For this noise points need to be distributed in varying categories; lets start with the weirdest noise…awards for the Tropical Shearwater, it is utterly indescribable! The scariest noise is awarded to the Wedge-tail Shearwater that is much like the noise ghosts make when you’re a child. For shear volume the Lesser Noddys win every time, with 57,000 breeding pairs and their chicks calling out continuously the island is filled with their ‘beautiful music’!?

Elegance: Well what can I say, they all have elegance, watching them fly, feed and interact never gets boring!


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