Elena Levorato spent a couple of months this past winter learning about and assisting with seabird rehabilitation as an intern at the Hawaii Wildlife Center. Part of her training involved tending and feeding white tern chicks that were finishing their rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild at the Honolulu Zoo. Since her stint as an intern on the big island and Oahu she has since moved on to the Seychelles where she continues to learn about seabirds of the Pacific and their conservation. Elena recently sent back to the Hui Manu o Ku a fascinating report on the white terns living and breeding on Aride Island in the Seychelles and a very specific threat they encounter there. Below is her report on the white terns and the Pisonia tree on Aride Island.
I know that this page is mostly dedicated to white terns from Honolulu, but I think it would be interesting to also talk about those who live elsewhere in the world. On Aride Island (Seychelles) there are lots of white terns, everywhere! Sadly, the breeding success is very low compared to those from Hawaii, even if there are no predators (no cats, no rats, no dogs) on the island. The reason of this low success is unclear, but the presence of Pisonia grandis does not help the terns’ population. Pisonia is a tropical tree mainly found on tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Seabirds love to nest on this tree, especially the lesser noddies (Anous tenuirostris) and the white terns (Gygis alba). If this tree provides a good shelter, it has a trap: the sticky seeds. When the seeds are mature, they fall on the ground and stick very easily to the feathers. During this period of the year, it is common to see noddies, tropicbirds and white terns on the ground, unable to fly because the wings and the tail are covered with seeds. This dramatic scenario is actually a natural way the tree uses to disperse the seeds, and it was hypothesized that bird carcasses could be a good fertilizer to help new plants to develop. However, more researches are needed to better understand this phenomenon.
The staff from ICS (Island Conservation Society) working on this island, try to help the birds found in distress, when this is possible. However, it is not a simple task: the seeds have small spines and a sticky substance, so it is better to be two people, one holding the bird and the second trying to remove the seeds without pulling out the feathers.
For more information regarding Pisonia grandis, click on those links:
For more information regarding Aride Island, visit the following link: https://www.arideisland.com/
The 2019 edition of the Manu o Ku Festival is just around the corner and here's your chance to help get the word out! The Conservation Council of Hawaii has just received a fresh supply of the beautiful posters for this year's festival. If you know of some places where they could be placed please call Jonee Peters at Conservation Council for Hawaii to let her know how many posters you would like. Jonee's number is (808) 593-0255 and the CCH offices are located at 250 Ward Ave Ste 212, Honolulu.
Check out Hawai'i Magazine's article titled 8 Things you Need to Know about Honolulu's White Fairy Tern. Mahalo Kevin Allen for featuring White Terns and the Hui Manu-o-Ku!
Monkeypod. Shower. Kukui. These are the three species of trees that white terns nesting on Oahu pick most often for breeding purposes. And these are the trees that most White Tern Walks have focused on. This monthʻs White Tern Walk will feature terns that are taking advantage of the incredible variety of trees available to them for nesting at the amazing arboretum that is the UH Manoa campus. In addition to the usual monkeypod, shower and kukui, youʻll see terns nesting in a wild chataigne, a baleric myrobalan and other exotic species of trees - something you can only see at UH Manoa!
Join us on Saturday, April 20, for this special Terns and Trees Guided Tour at the UH Manoa. Weʻll meet in front of the Sinclair Library at 0900 for this walk, sponsored by the UH Campus Arboretum, Hawaii Audobon Society and the Hui Manu o Ku.
Aloha White Tern Photographers!
The fourth annual Manu o Ku Festival is being held at the Iolani Palace on Saturday May 18, 2019 and will again feature a White Tern Digital Photo Exhibit. Submissions are now being accepted for the exhibit that are taken of white terns here on Oahu. Submission to the exhibit is open to everyone, free of charge! All you need to do is email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org with whatever descriptions you’d like posted with the photos. You’ll get photo credit for your submission and our promise that we won’t further distribute or reuse your photos without your permission.
The purpose of the photo exhibit is to share with festival goers what many of us have been fortunate to see and photograph. This year we’ve created a number of categories for your submissions and you are invited to submit up to five photos for each category. The categories are:
- Terns and Fish: White terns carrying fish and feeding their chicks. These photos will also support Sarah Donahue’s research on white tern diet.
- Terns and Blossoms: Terns perched or flying amongst tree blossoms
- Terns as Art: “Artistic” images of terns captured with a camera (with or without post-processing effects applied) or that are drawn or painted (and then photographed for submission to the exhibit). Let your creative juices flow!
- Terns just being terns: Terns flying, nesting, preening, sleeping, interacting with chicks, etc.
Photos taken with any type of camera are welcome. As they say, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” And sometimes the camera in our pocket is the only one we have when we see the terns doing something interesting. Don’t feel as though your photos aren’t worthy of submission because you didn’t use a big camera with a huge lens. If you like the photo you took with your cell phone we want to give you a chance to share it with others!
Some tern behaviors are best captured in video and so there will also be a category for short videos of terns. It’s requested that you keep videos to a maximum of 60 seconds in length.
The new breeding season is underway and trees around greater Honolulu are full of nesting terns and their chicks. Now’s the time to grab your camera and get some shots. Check out the nest map on the Hui Manu o Ku webpage at for the location of known nests that are currently active. The deadline for submissions is May 11, 2019.
We're offering an “app” to make it easier for you to find nesting spots that are particularly good for photographing the terns. The app uses Google Earth installed on your smartphone or tablet to show you the locations of trees with nesting spots that are low in the tree and visually more accessible. Clicking the pin marking the location of the tree on the map will display a photo showing you where to look in the tree to find the nesting spot. Send an email to email@example.com to request the app.
Thanks in advance for your participation in the 4th Annual Manu o Ku Festival’s digital photo exhibit.
A hui hou!
The 2019 White Tern breeding season on O‘ahu continues to provide numerous outstanding viewing opportunities. Join us on Saturday, February 23, for a walk that will take in some of the best of the best white tern nests in the heart of Waikiki! Meet behind the stage at the base of the big banyan tree at the Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue at 9:00am.
Please RSVP by texting (808) 379-7555 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2019 White Tern breeding season on Oahu continues to provide numerous outstanding viewing opportunities. Join us on Saturday, January 19 for a walk that will take in some of the best of the best white tern nests in the heart of Waikiki. Meet behind the stage at the base of the big banyon tree at the Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue at 9:00 if you'd like to join us. Please RSVP by text to 808-379-7555.
The 2019 White Tern breeding season on Oahu is off to a great start with several of the most visible nesting spots already occupied by adults tending eggs or small chicks. Join us on Saturday, December 22, for a walk that will take in some of the best of the best white tern nests in the heart of Waikiki. Meet behind the stage at the base of the big banyan tree at the Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue at 9:00 if you'd like to join us. Please RSVP by text to 808-379-7555.
The Hawaii Wildlife Center is advertising for a Manu O Ku Internship at the Honolulu Zoo. Resumes, cover letters, and dates of availability should be sent to Patrick@HawaiiWildlifeCenter.org by December 9!
Susan Scott's new book on the Manu o Ku is now available for purchase on the Hawaii Audubon Society webpage. Get a copy for yourself and share the joy of the white terns of Oahu with friends and family. Just in time for Christmas!