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Midway Atoll NWR


White Tern

Gygis alba

Sooty Tern

Sterna fuscata

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White Tern

One of the most beautiful and interesting of birds, the White Tern is a year round resident and breeder. We saw them every day, everywhere. Typical of tropical birds they breed all year long.

White Tern Gygis alba
The White Tern is an all white bird with blue feet and legs and a black bill, blue at the base.

This bird has been called Fairy Tern although that name is now reserved for an Australian tern which looks more like the Least Tern.

This bird casually lays its egg in any convenient nook on the bare branches of tree. Both the female above and the one to the left seem to have found a a place in the fork between branches.

As demonstrated by these pictures a second bird frequently hung around the incubating bird. I often observed 3 adult plumage birds flying together, suggesting that perhaps they represent a pair and an adult offspring.

White Tern Midway Atoll

Any little hole seems to suit the White Tern for its egg. Here an egg rests in hole in a porch railing. The parent bird was flitting around the porch when our group trooped into the small museum in the house occupied by the refuge manager. This residence was formerly that of the highest ranking officer on the base.

 This picture was taken during the rain on the first day of our visit.

White Tern egg laid on porch railing

I cannot see an egg in this picture, but this adult bird seems to be very relaxed. I was some 15 feet away on the path when the picture was taken with a telephoto lens.

White Terns share the Ironwood trees introduced by the cable company with the Canaries. According to the ranger, the White Tern will also nest in the lower native vegetation.

White Tern
White Tern chick

An egg laid in an exposed and precarious place results in a chick that must cling to the perch for dear life. This little guy hatched on the top of a wood rack used for drying nets. He was still healthy several days later.

White Tern chick

This chick appears comfortable on a piece of bark.After two days of heavy rains we did find a dead chick at the base on one of the Ironwood trees like those is the pictures at the top of the page

Notice the pair of white terns perched on the sign close to a busy pedestrian sidewalk. Are they checking this out for a nest?

The Midway Mall consists of store with film, a few groceries, cosmetics, souveniers and other convenience store items, but without convenience store hours. They were mostly closed.

Fortunately for us they had a line of umbrellas which we purchased when it rained most of our first two days on the island. In the back ground the bowling alley a standard feature of any US military base. This one is used primarily by the workers on the island.

White Tern chicks on sign

Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata

Sooty Terns also breed on the island. We had our best looks at this handsome bird on the weekly walk on Eastern Island.

Sooty Tern

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