Next to St. Andrew's Church in Downtown Honolulu, there's a Kukui tree that currently hosts six White Tern nests (GPS pt. 344). So many terns nesting in one tree is highly unusual, especially at this time of year. So many eggs and chicks in one place provides a great opportunity to observe the different parenting styles among the population of White Terns in Honolulu. Some chicks are hatched into families where the parents demonstrate a much more hands-on approach and where they experience more interaction with their parents during the days and weeks that the chick's world is confined to the branch where they were hatched.
A two-week old chick in the St. Andrew's Kukui tree is one of these cases. A couple days ago, I watched as both parents returned from foraging at sea with two fish. One (likely the mother) landed first, followed immediately by the other (probably the father) with two fish in his bill. The mother took one fish from the father and carefully fed it to the chick, ensuring that it ate it head first. The mother then repeated the process with the second fish, pausing to make sure the chick had swallowed the first. It is not unusual to see this method of feeding among parents of very young chicks, where one passes the food to the other who then feeds the chick. By the time chicks are a couple weeks old, however, feeding tends to be pretty perfunctory. Not so with this little family, where the interaction between chick and parents provides one more example of what makes these birds so special.