Brown Noddy 2000 BINNS D64A7195 copy

DRY TORTUGAS – Seabird Specialties

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May 7, 2020 | by Adrian Binns

The Dry Tortugas is a premier North American birding destination to witness the spectacle of tropical seabirds. During our 3 day spring tour to these beautiful islands, we enjoy a variety of specialties including five species that nest only in this location within the United States.

Bridled Tern

BRIDLED TERN  Onychoprion anaethetus

  • often found feeding along sargassum mats
  • birds at sea may land on flotsam and jetsam
  • only place they nest in the US is on Bush Key, in early summer
  • first began nesting in Dry Tortugas after 2005 hurricane season

Audubon’s Shearwater

AUDUBON’S SHEARWATER  Puffinus therminieri

  • small, about 12″, tropical shearwater
  • often seen in flocks in the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream
  • best looked for foraging around sargassum
  • nests in burrows on small islands in the Caribbean

Roseate Tern

ROSEATE TERN  Sterna dougallii

  • often seen resting on markers and buoys
  • at rest, tails of adults extend well beyond the wing tip
  • plunge dives from a greater height than other terns
  • a few pairs nest on Bush Key in early summer

Brown Booby

BROWN BOOBY  Sula leucogaster

  • usually seen in small groups on markers on the way to the Dry Tortugas
  • look for the clean demarcation between breast and underparts
  • plunge dives from 20-50′, feeding mainly on flying fish and squid
  • breeds in the Caribbean

Masked Booby

MASKED BOOBY  Sula dactylatra

  • only place in the US that it nests is on Hospital Key
  • first nested in 1984, now about 20 pairs breed
  • largest and least common of the tropical boobies
  • upon greeting each other females squawk, and males whistle

Brown Noddy

BROWN NODDY  Anous stolidus

  • only nest colony in continuous US is on Bush Key
  • about 2500 pairs nest, creating loose twig platforms low in bushes
  • largest and most abundant of the noddies
  • seen close perched on the North Coaling Dock

Black Noddy

BLACK NODDY  Anous minutus

  • only place in the contiguous US to see it
  • usually one immature present each spring, first seen in 1960
  • best seen on Bush Key or North Coaling Dock
  • rare in North Atlantic, with only a few pairs breeding in West Indies

Sooty Tern

SOOTY TERN  Onychoprion fuscatus

  • most numerous bird in the Dry Tortugas, 80,000 nest annually on Bush Key
  • only nesting colony in the United States
  • highly pelagic and don’t land on water
  • once fledged they spend 5 years on the wing before returning to breed

Join us for a Dry Tortugas Seabirds and Spring Migration tour!

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