Brown noddy (Anous stolidus)
|Also known as:||Common noddy|
|Size||Length: 38 – 45 cm (2)|
Wingspan: 75 – 86 cm (2)
|Weight||150 – 272 g (2)|
The brown noddy is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
A medium-sized, chocolate brown seabird, the brown noddy (Anous stolidus) has a distinctive white-grey forehead that extends over the top of the eye, becoming greyer on the crown and nape of the neck, as well as grey-brown cheeks and jet black lores (the area of the face between the eye and the bill). The wings have blackish tips and the long, narrow tail is dark blackish-brown and is distinctly wedge-shaped. The bill, legs and feet are all blackish-brown (2) (3) (4). The female brown noddy is similar to the male in appearance, but is much smaller and lighter. The juvenile has a brown crown and pale fringes to the feathers on the upperparts (2).
Four subspecies of the brown noddy are generally recognized: Anous stolidus stolidus is found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean; Anous stolidus ridgwayi is distributed mainly along the coast of west Central America; Anous stolidus galapagensis occurs in the Galapagos Islands; and Anous stolidus pileatus occurs throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans (2) (3).
The brown noddy breeds on tropical and subtropical inshore or oceanic islands, which have rocky cliffs and coral or sand beaches (2) (5). It nests on the ground, in trees or shrubs, and on cliffs or man-made structures, such as docks and jetties (2) (3) (6). During the non-breeding season, the brown noddy will spend most of its time at sea and may roost on water, rocks, islets, flotsam and even the backs of sea turtles (3).
Seeking small fish and squid that dwell just below the surface, the brown noddy searches for prey by hovering above the water, before swiftly grabbing it during flight or seizing it while sitting at the surface (2) (3). In the Galapagos, the brown noddy has been recorded stealing fish from the brown pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis), and it also associates with schools of predatory fish, such as tuna, picking off prey which have been driven to the surface by these underwater predators (2). Generally, the brown noddy forages along breaking waves or in lagoons that surround the oceanic islands on which it breeds (5).
The brown noddy lays a single egg each year, on bare ground, in makeshift structures of stones, pieces of coral and shells, or in elaborate nests constructed from twigs and vegetation. Breeding occurs at different times of year depending on the location; some areas have a specific breeding season, such as between April and August in the Seychelles, while in the Galapagos the brown noddy may nest during any month of the year. The egg is incubated by both adult birds for around 30 to 37 days. Once hatched, both adults share responsibility for brooding the young chick, providing it with heat and shelter from wind, rain and sand until it fledges at about eight weeks old (2) (3).
Because the brown noddy often nests on or near the ground, the birds and eggs are susceptible to predation by introduced species, such as rats and cats, whilst the egg is also vulnerable to predation by reptiles (5) (6). Human disturbance is also a potential threat as it causes the adult to flee the nest, leaving the chick exposed and more vulnerable to predation (3). On some islands, eggs, chicks and adults are targeted at breeding colonies by collectors (5).
No specific conservation measures are currently known for this species; however, there are many programmes and organisations dedicated to seabird conservation. In Hawaii for example, goals to maintain, protect and enhance seabird habitat and eradicate non-native species have been introduced (6).
To find out more about the conservation of seabirds, see:
Global Seabird Programme:
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- Incubate: to keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Chardine, J.W. and Morris, R.D. (1996) Brown noddy (Anous stolidus). In: Poole, A. (Ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge (September, 2010)
BirdLife International (September, 2010)
Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy: Species Factsheet (September, 2010)