Fr: Noddi marianne
Ang: Lesser Noddy
All: Schlankschnabelnoddi
Esp: Tiñosa Picofina
Ita: Noddy minore
Nd: Kleine Noddy
Sd: mindre noddy


Patrick Ingremeau

Jean-Claude Jamoulle
A la rencontre des Oiseaux

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Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 3 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions – ISBN: 8487334202

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Birds of the World

Threatened Species of the Week: Lesser Noddy




Maldives Biodiversity


The Breeding Biology of the Lesser Noddy on Pelsaert Island, Western Australia

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Lesser Noddy
Anous tenuirostris

Charadriiformes Order – Laridae Family

The Lesser Noddy was formerly a subspecies of the Black Noddy (A. minutus). It is now a full species with two subspecies.
It is found near the coasts of Comoros, Kenya, India, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates. Non-breeding birds are sometimes observed along the Kenyan coast and near Perth in SW Australia.
The Lesser Noddy breeds on oceanic islets, but outside of breeding season, it is mainly pelagic, remaining around the nesting islands or dispersing through the Indian Ocean. It breeds in huge colonies. The single egg is laid in a bulky nest placed in tall tree or low bush. It feeds on fish and squid and often forages in flocks over the water surface.
The Lesser Noddy is affected by introduced predators and habitat loss, but the numbers are stable and currently, the species is not globally threatened.    

Male and female are similar.
The juvenile/immature has paler brown plumage and shorter bill.

The Lesser Noddy has two subspecies.
A.t. tenuirostris (described above) is found in Seychelles, Mascarenes and Maldives Islands in W Indian Ocean.
A.t. melanops occurs in Houtman Abrolhos Islands in W Australia. It was formerly also in Indonesia.
This race is similar to nominate, but with a blackish stripe above the eyes that extend to the lores.

The Lesser Noddy often remains at breeding colonies year-round, and appears largely sedentary. The colonies are established in mangroves on oceanic islands with lagoons, gullies and salt-lakes, but it also frequents shingle and sandy beaches.
However, it forages out to sea and regularly reaches the coasts of East Africa in non-breeding season. It forages in inshore seas and reefs around the breeding islands.

The Lesser Noddy produces a mechanical “byowp” when excited. During the breeding season, we can hear a grating “arrrk arrrk” often repeated and a low-pitched “ugugug”.   

The Lesser Noddy feeds mainly on small fish and squid. It usually hunts while flying low over the sea surface. It hovers and dips down to catch the prey from the water surface. But this species also feeds by aerial or contact dipping, but it does not plunge-dive.
The Lesser Noddy is largely diurnal and the foraging trips often start before dawn, and there is a second peak of departures between 10h00 and 12h00, depending on the season.

The Lesser Noddy of nominate race is regularly seen off East Africa outside of breeding season. Small numbers also reach the Omani Coast. Others are reported from the Tanzanian coast and a few individuals are reported from India.
The race “melanops” is a permanent resident in W Australia.   

Like other noddy species, the Lesser Noddy is agile in flight while foraging without alighting close to the sea surface. 

The female lays a single egg and both adults incubate during 34/40 days (race “melanops”). The chick fledges 40 days after hatching.
In nominate race “tenuirostris”, the incubation lasts about 35 days and the chick fledges much later, between 55 and 70 days after hatching. The process depends on food availability and may take up to 90/105 days.
Both parents share the nesting duties.
The juvenile reaches maturity at 3-4 years old. It will only return to the island to breed.
The breeding success depends on weather conditions because strong winds and storms may destroy the nests.     

The Lesser Noddy may be affected by introduced cats and rats on some islands, and by habitat loss in tropical Indian Ocean islands.
The global population is large, with 1,500,000 individuals in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. 
The nominate race from central and western Indian Ocean is estimated to number 1,200,000 individuals, found mainly in Mauritius and Seychelles.
The population is stable and not globally threatened, and the Lesser Noddy is currently evaluated as Least Concern.

The breeding season varies between colonies. On Aride Island, Seychelles, the nominate race “tenuirostris” breeds between late May and late June.
On Houtman Abrolhos, in the race “melanops” the laying takes place from August to early December. It nests in mangrove trees (Avicennia marina). Several colonies shift from year to year, whereas others remain stable.

The Lesser Noddy builds a bulky nest in tall tree, sometimes in low bush. However, on Serpent Island, Mauritius, the species nests on the ground.
The race “melanops” builds a platform of brown algae and excreta, and the nests are often close to each other, about 30 centimetres apart.

Length: 30-34 cm
Wingspan: 58-63 cm
Weight: 97-120 g

The Lesser Noddy has dark, blackish-brown plumage overall. It has long, narrow, pointed wings and the tail is wedge-shaped.
Forehead and crown are whitish, whereas hindcrown and nape are ashy-grey. Neck sides, throat and cheeks are pale grey-brown to sooty. The lores are whitish.
The long, slender bill is black. The eyes are dark brown, with whitish to pale grey eyering, more conspicuous below the eye, and a black spot in front of the eye. Legs and webbed feet are brownish-black.

The Lesser Noddy breeds in colonies on rat-and-cat free granitic islands. The bulky nest is built in tall trees or low bushes. The nests are generally placed about 5 metres apart (nominate race).
This species lays a single egg, sometimes lost when the nest is exposed to the strong winds. In this case, some pairs may lay a replacement clutch.
Outside of breeding season, the adults can be seen in flocks with other seabird species, and they forage for food in the vicinity of the breeding colonies.
Juvenile on the nest