Saturday, September 12, 1998

Black Noddy at Islas Frailes: a new species for Panama

A Black Noddy was seen on the Islas Frailes del Norte, Pedasí, Herrera. Also seen were hundreds of Brown Noddies, Bridled and Sooty Terns and Brown and Blue-footed Boobies.
A Black Noddy was seen on Islas Frailes del Norte (Las Monjas) at 5:00 P.M. on September 12th, 1998. It was observed by Débora Herrera, Evelyn White, Rosabel & Karl Kaufmann, and Delicia, Darién & Camilo Montañez. The day was overcast, and the sea was relatively calm, allowing for excellent views of the bird. Also, the noddy was standing at eye level, which only made things easier. Observation time was about 15 minutes, and we got as close as 3 meters from the rock, and thus the bird.
The Frailes del Norte was full of (breeding?) Brown Noddies, so we had plenty of birds of all ages to compare it with. The Black Noddy was first noted by Rosabel, who picked it out from the ones surrounding it by its brighter white crown. It did not move from its spot in the rock, but would sometimes look the other way, so we had good views of all sides of its head. Since it never took flight we couldn't check the underwing pattern, the only fieldmark that was not observed.
This noddy was of a darker color overall, and was noticeably smaller and more slender, not as bulky as the Brown Noddies around it. The bill was thinner, especially at the base, and slightly longer. The crown was bright-white, turning to light gray at the nape, so it appeared as if all the top of its head was white. Also, the lores were completely black, and contrasted sharply with the white crown. All of these marks, except the lenght of the bill, were very evident and were observed by everyone in the group.
The Black Noddy is found in the tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, where its range overlaps with the Brown Noddy. Some authors consider it conspecific with the Lesser Noddy A. tenuirostris of the Indian Ocean. In the Pacific, it nests from Hawaii to New Guinea, norhteastern Australia and the Tuamotu Archipelago; also off the coast of Central America (A. m. diamesus), on Clipperton Atoll, Mexico, and Cocos Island, Costa Rica. It appears to be more sedentary in its habits than other noddies, as most populations roost at its nesting sites throughout the year, but may also disperse after the breeding season.

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