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The sea birds of New Caledonia are part of one of the most fascinating avifauna on the planet. Of the 197 species of birds found in New Caledonia, 51 are seabirds. 25 species are permanent residents of New Caledonia and 26 species migrate through the islands every year. Three of the endemic seabirds of New Caledonia are endangered and two of the world wide species are in decline - but the seabirds in this image, the lesser Noddy Tern, Anous tenuirostris, is happily not endangered.
Most of the nesting sites are within special lagoon island reserves and there are signs posted instructing people that no dogs or cats are allowed on the islands and to stay away from the birds and their nesting areas. However the birds in the southern lagoon islands don't seem to mind coming much closer than the 40 metres recommended by the signs.
The Noddi feeds on small fish and squid that come to the surface - often chased by bigger fish from beneath. The birds are very socially inclined. They nest together, roost together, and fly off each morning one after the other, fish together all day and come flying back at sunset - jabbering away the entire time with their accomplished little voices. Just at sunset, as they return from a hard day's fishing, they make a most astonishing amount of noise - gossiping and arguing between themselves, each trying to be loud enough to be heard over the general din.
New Caledonia seabirds breed between October and April. Just before breeding, the Noddi ingests sand and small pieces of coral from the beach to provide extra calcium for the eggs. They build their nests in the beach trees from seaweed and grass.
This image was taken on Ua Island, one of many anchorages in New Caledonia where pleasure boaters can enjoy a close encounter with sea birds.
New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.