Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Tale of White-tailed Tropicbirds

Not so long ago in a far away land, the Hipster Birders were just a mere twinkle in your eye. In our pre-blogging days, we encountered some amazing birding adventures that we have still yet to share with you. But now is the time! In some upcoming posts, Nick and I will share photos and stories of some incredible birds we've encountered from across the globe. And now you'll find out more about our header photo.

The pristine beach of the Seychelles Islands

The granitic Seychelles Islands

In the Summer of 2009, my family took a vacation to the Seychelles Islands, a place that I once called home. The Seychelles is a small chain of islands in the Indian Ocean. The islands are mostly granitic, and the white sandy beaches and the crystal aqua waters are unparalleled. My parents met there and had my two older sisters and me, and I was only there until I was about 2 1/2 before we moved to the U.S. Fortunately, we've been able to go back every so often to enjoy true paradise and visit family. This last trip, the whole family traveled together… And I do mean WHOLE family - my mom, 2 sisters, 2 uncles, 2 aunts, and 2 cousins, plus Nick and my sister's boyfriend. (And then we met even more family when we arrived in Seychelles!) Traveling with a caravan was adventure enough, but Nick's and my true adventure was the birds. 

Nick & I at the beach

This picture may look familiar... White-tailed Tropicbird in flight

We made a pit stop in Dubai for 3 days (posts from there to come), and then safely made it to Mahe (pronounced Mah-hay), the main island of Seychelles where my family is from. It is often the case that to really explore the area, one must go island-hopping. So that's exactly what we did. One of our side trips took us on a boat ride to Cousin Island, a very small island that is inhabited with a variety of Seychelles endemics, as well as nesting colonies of Lesser Noddies, Fairy Terns (White Terns), and White-tailed Tropicbirds. 

White-Tailed Tropicbird in flight

The graceful White-tailed Tropicbird
A pair of White-Tailed Tropicbirds soaring through the air

As we made our way around Cousin Island, we were surrounded above by thousands of Lesser Noddies nesting in the treetops. But we couldn't get too distracted by them because we had to watch the ground below us, too, to make sure that we weren't going to step on a nesting Tropicbird, or worse, its chick! 

A pair of mating White-tailed Tropicbirds trying to find a good place to nest

A nesting White-tailed Tropicbird in a tree cavity

An elegant White-tailed Tropicbird

White-tailed Tropic bird - so poised

One of the most truly awesome sights is to see the White-tailed Tropicbird. In the sky, it soars above in the most graceful, sweeping motion. And on land, adults will nest right on the ground in a cavity at the bottom of a tree, or just even a bit of a nook in a dead log. And then when the babies hatch, they just sit on the ground, ever so sweetly, trusting that nobody would hurt them.

A beautiful pair of nesting White-tailed Tropicbirds 
White-tailed Tropicbird nesting in a tree cavity
Sleepy White-tailed Tropicbird

You can see for yourself how out in the open the nesting adults and babies were. This was truly an awesome experience that has yet to be surpassed. The photos really speak for themselves. But be warned, you may be overwhelmed by the cuteness factor. So you better be sitting down.

A little ball of fuzzy sunshine!

Baby White-tailed Tropicbird. Check out those big, baby eyes!

Who couldn't adore this face?!?!

The baby Tropicbirds make you swoon from all of their adorableness. The very young ones are just little white, fuzzy cotton balls with big, endearing eyes. And when they get a little older, they suddenly become these uber chic and stylish models. They look like they have a white fur lined coat with an exotic black and white pattern. Any high-end designer would be keen to bring this to her collection, as long as it's not a Cruella Deville type of situation.

And now the latest from the Coco CHANEL Fall Collection... 

Tres Chic Chick!


  1. Wow! I've never seen shots of them on the ground before...great stuff. I've seen a handful of White-taileds but have yet to get a photo of one. I'm looking forward to more shots of the Seychelles, I know nothing about the place or its birds.

    1. Thanks, Steve! We were lucky enough to have been given a guided tour by a caretaker/ conservationist of the island. It was a great experience. I'm excited to share more of our stories.

  2. Those chicks are awesome! I love the contrast of their elegant juvenile feathers with the puffy down.

  3. Wow I had no idea the Tropicbirds nested like that! Right there in the forest too, their beautiful white seems to almost work against them, but I guess there's not too much to fear.
    By odd coincidence, my wife and I were watching a House Hunters International show just a few days ago that featured the Seychelles, and we agreed we'd never seen such stunning beaches. And now here they are again, presented wonderfully. I'll take it as a sign that we should move there...
    Thanks for sharing Maureen, looking forward to the rest.

    1. Thanks, Laurence! How funny that you just saw that episode of House Hunters International! I'll have to see if I can catch it. I always get excited to see the Seychelles featured in the media.