The Black Noddy Tern – Nature’s Winged Simpletons



The black noddy (anous minutus) is a medium-sized tropical tern with a dark, slender, pointed bill.  Its black feathers contrast with its white noddy tern

The noddy’s color is the reverse of most terns.  Pay close attention to its white crescent on the lower eyelid, and there is a white spot on the upper rim.  

The male and female black noddy are much alike, which is unusual in the bird world.  This elegant and very graceful seabird, has long, tapering wings, a wedge-shaped tail, and short, black legs, with fully webbed feet. 

It also has a small notch at the tip of its tail.  If you ever get to hold one, you might notice the notch in its tail.

What’s In A Name?

Sailors once called this bird, “noddies”, which meant, “simpletons”, because it could be easily caught by hand.  

However, during breeding rituals, both male and female birds seem to nod at each other. 

Their genus name, “(anous minutus)” means “unmindful” in Greek, and refers to the bird’s tolerance of humans. 


Sometimes, this bird has been called the lesser noddy because of its size; the sooty noddy, because of its color; and the white capped noddy because of its white cap. 

It has a length of 35 to 39 cm, a wingspan of 66 to 72 cm, and a weight of 98 to 144 g.  

A group of noddies is known as a “niddle” or a “sleepiness” or maybe an “affirmation”.

Black Noddy Habits

black noddy ternThe black noddy flies low over the water and seizes its prey at the surface, while remaining airborne, or by splashing its bill in the water, without fully submerging. 

Foraging during the day in large flocks, it depends on predatory fish, such as tuna, to drive its prey towards the water surface, where it can reach it without diving.

As with the other noddies, the black noddy is unusual in being one of few species in the Laridae family.

Note: Laridae refers to birds that pirate food from other birds, and are very comfortable in and around water, such as gulls and terns) that nests in trees or shrubs, with most other species being ground-nesters, although it does also nest on ledges of cliffs and sea caves. 

black noddy nesting

The black noddy typically nests in colonies, with the nest being a shallow cup made of vegetation, such as seaweed, moss and dead leaves. 

A single egg is laid, and unlike most seabirds, the noddy may produce two clutches in a single breeding season. 

The egg is incubated for 30 to 37 days, with the chick eating regurgitated fish. 

It begins to fly (fledges) at approximately 48 to 60 days, although it may remain with the adult birds for several weeks afterwards. 

The black noddy is a relatively long-lived species, and does not reach sexual maturity until it is several years old. 

Its voice sounds like “crick crick crick”,  and “kehrrrr”.

Where Are Black Noddies Found?


A widespread seabird with a worldwide distribution across tropical and subtropical waters, the black noddy occurs in the western and central Pacific Ocean, with scattered populations in the Caribbean, central and eastern Atlantic and northeast Indian Ocean. 

This bird has been found nesting in Florida since the 1960’s. They nest on islands sometimes far out to sea, and in groups called colonies.

What Does A Black Noddy Eat?

The black noddy feeds on small fish and squid, if this food is available, because their range is very large.  It often feeds by hover-dipping and contact-dipping.

Kleptoparasitism or food piracy, has been observed, and it will associate with other seabirds over schools of predatory fish. 

There are 197 bird species that practice stealing food from the host animal before it is ingested. 

The frigatebird, the bald eagle, common ravens, and gulls join the black noddy to obtain food.

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About the author: Sandor is a former stock broker and current tour guide and treasure hunter, travelling far and wide seeking buried treasure.  He has found some very interesting artifacts in his searches.  He is also an avid bird watcher and is an advocate for rare and endangered birds.

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