Ascension Island Government

Conservation > Discover > Flora and Fauna > Brown Noddy

Brown Noddy

Anous stolidus

Type: Seabird | Status: Least Concern | Nativeness: Native


The brown noddy is a medium sized seabird with a forked tail belonging to the family Laridae - which contains gulls and terns. They are dark brown all over with the exception of a white crest that softens into a grey nape, and a white lower half-eye ring. This species is found worldwide across the tropic and subtropics. On Ascension Island they nest in small loose colonies, favouring rocky outcrops and elevated cliffs. They can be found across Mars Bay and Letterbox Nature Reserves, Boatswainbird Island and on suitable habitat around the coast including offshore stacks.

During the nesting season, new pairs will court one another with distinctive 'nodding' courtship dances, that gives this bird it's name. In a suitable outcrop or crevice they will create a platform nest of shingle and lay a single egg. Incubation is by both parents for 35-38 days and nesting sites will be reused in subsequent years. Adult noddies will often forage closer to their colony than sooty terns, feeding the young more frequently. Brown noddy chicks grow quickly, reaching the weight of the adult bird after just 3 weeks. The chick will fledge at 6 weeks, however it will be supported by the parents for several more weeks before it is truly independent. Juvenile birds lack the pale crest of the mature adults. Brown noddies feed on small fish and squid that they will swoop over the sea surface to catch.

When brown noddies vocalise, it is a rough call often in response to perceived dangers. They are unafraid to swoop at hikers repeatedly until they have left the vicinity of their nest. During the non-breeding season they will spend most of their time at sea, and can roost on the water. Brown noddies can potentially navigate long distances but its precise dispersal throughout its world range is poorly known. Tagged birds from St Helena have been recorded in Ascension's waters.