Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bulletin 181 - Kauai seabirds

We had a family vacation in Kauai 2 weeks ago, and I did manage to get some birding in. LOL

A special place is Kilauea Point NWR on the north coast of Kauai. There is a lighthouse on a cliff several hundred feet above the ocean and the seabirds are soaring at eye level. According to the Hawaii bird guide, it is the most visited NWR in the USA. It is listed at the place to find seabirds in Hawaii. They have nice signs around to help non-birders identify the different species.

Kilauea Point NWR

The first bird is the Great Frigatebird (Frigata minor). This long-winged bird has a deeply forked tail. The male is all black with a red throat pouch that he inflates during courtship.

Great Frigatebird - male

The female has a white breast.

Great Frigatebird - female
And the juvenile has a white head, neck and breast. The tail is shorter.  This one is scratching his head 'on the wing'.

Great Frigatebird - juvenile
Tropicbirds are a family of 3 species of gull like seabirds in the tropical oceans of the world. I had never seen a tropicbird previously, so the 2 species seen here were  both lifers. The more common one is the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaeton rubricauda).  The adults are white with a bright red bill, and red tail streamers.

Red-tailed Tropicbird - adult
The young have black bills and no tail streamers. This is a sub-adult as the bill is mostly red, but it has none of the tail streamers.

Red-tailed Tropicbird - subadult

The White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaeton lepturus) is smaller, has a yellowish bill and long white tail streamers. From above, it has a black 'M' on the wings.

White-tailed Tropic Bird
The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) is a large (28") seabird with long pointed beak, and pointed tail. The adult is white with brown wing edges. It has a bluish bill and red feet.

Red-footed Booby - adult
The juveniles are brown with orange legs. There is a huge breeding colony of these boobies at the lighthouse, and juvies are seen waiting in the trees to be fed.

Red-footed Booby - juvenile
The Brown Booby (Sula  leucogaster) is also 28" in length. This one was seen along the Naapali coast during a boat trip to see the spectacular cliffs. The adult has a brown head and neck.

Brown Booby - adult

The last of the seabirds I was able to photograph, was the Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus). These birds nest in burrows and lay a single egg. The gray downy young can sometimes be seen if they come out of the burrow. The adults usually feed offshore during the day, and return to feed the babies at dusk. This particular adult was sitting on the nest in a planter box outside the visitor center main door! What an easy lifer!

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - adult
Several gray downy chicks were seen, waiting at the mouth of the burrow for their parents return.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - chick
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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