American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Black Noddy – Florida

While leading a tour to Dry Tortugas National Park, Larry Manfredi discovered a Black Noddy (Code 3) roosting on Bush Key on April 23. He found it again on April 24, but it was not seen again until April 27, when yours truly spotted it.

Each time, it’s been seen to the right of the “Island Closed” sign on Bush Key in the “first row” of terns, i.e., the terns roosting closest to the shore. These terns are in the lightest green vegetation (see photos below). To see them, take the steps in the southeast corner of Fort Jefferson to the top of the fort. You will need a spotting scope.

Bush Key as seen from the top of the southeast corner of Fort Jefferson. (photo by J. Puschock)

Full-frame photo taken with a 1.6x crop factor DSLR and a 400mm lens from the top of Fort Jefferson. The Black Noddy and other terns are roosting in the light green vegetation. (photo by J. Puschock)

Scan the terns for a noddy that is slightly blacker and smaller than the Brown Noddies. Black Noddy also has a bill that looks thinner and relatively longer in comparison to a Brown Noddy’s bill, and this can be seen from the fort under good conditions.

Here are several photos presented for educational purposes only, i.e., they’re not very good:

Heavy crop of a photo taken from the fort with a 400mm lens and 1.6x crop factor DSLR. Note the differences in color, bill shape, and size between Black Noddy and Brown Noddy. (photo by J. Puschock)

Another heavy crop of a photo taken from the fort. This one shows the bill shape of Black Noddy a little better. (photo by J. Puschock)

Black Noddy has become increasingly difficult to see over the past 15 years. The current bird is the first to be seen in two or three years. In the 1990s, multiple birds were present in the spring, but since then, only one individual has been present at a time. The last several birds have been seen roosting on Bush Key. Prior to that, they would often be seen on the north coaling dock pilings, allowing much better views. Click here to see a series of photos of a Black Noddy on the pilings.

Dry Tortugas National Park is accesible only by ferry or seaplane. Day trips give you a limited time to bird. For example, if you take the ferry, you have about 4 hours in the middle of the day to bird. Camping gives you more time and allows you to bird in the morning and late afternoon. Several tour companies offer 3-day tours to the Dry Tortugas, but I’m aware of only one running tours after May 1.