#ThreatenedSpecies of the Week: Lesser Noddy

Anous tenuirostris melanops, more commonly known as the Australian Lesser Noddy, is a small Noddy, with a wingspan of about 60cm. The birds have a pale grey crown that shades evenly between the bill and the eyes, and down the neck, and there is often a black area immediately around the eye.

The Australian Lesser Noddy, is only known to breed in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, where colonies on Pelsaert, Wooded and Morley Islands occupy a total of five hectares, and the birds appear to remain near the breeding islands year-round.

The sexes are similar and there is no seasonal variation in plumage. Large flocks occur in the breeding season, and smaller flocks at other times.

Unfortunately, the Lesser Noddy is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and Endangered under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

A population of the birds, (thought to be A.t.melanops)  possibly breeds in the Ashmore Reef, however the subspecific identity has not been confirmed.

Photo Credit: Anthony Desmond Department Parks and Wildlife
Photo Credit: Anthony Desmond Department Parks and Wildlife

The oceanic range of the Australian Lesser Noddy is largely unknown. They may be mostly sedentary, returning to breeding islands to roost during non-breeding season. They possibly leave the islands for short periods and the feeding range from islands is probably extensive. Gales can displace birds many hundreds of kilometres.

Guano mining during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries coincided with the disappearance of the Australian Lesser Noddy from Pelsaert Island. Currently, the main potential threats to breeding colonies are catastrophic destruction by cyclones, or pollution from oil spills that could damage the birds and mangroves.

The Australian Lesser Noddy feeds on small fish; small Australian Herrings, Beaked Salmon, Goatfish, Blue Sprat, Hardyheads and Pilchards.

It feeds by taking items from or just below the water surface, without alighting. The foraging habitat of Australian lesser noddies is virtually unknown.

They feed by ‘dipping’, taking prey from or just below the surface of water without alighting. They may forage out to sea or close inshore to breeding islands, including outside fringing reefs, feeding on small squid and fish.

Nests in White Mangroves Avicennia marina, occur in small scattered patches on a few of the islands of the Houtman Abrolhos. Nesting colonies move periodically because nesting birds retard tree growth and sometimes kill trees; trees take up to 13 years to recovery.

Information Source: Government of Australia, Department of Environment and Department of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia


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