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Seasons of Wildlife

RuddyTurnstone

Although none of them nest on Midway Atoll, several species of shorebirds are common visitors. The number of birds is highest during fall and winter (August through April) when their nesting grounds in the north are covered by snow. 

  • Spring

    White tern small image

    March

    Albatross - The chicks of Laysan and black-footed albatrosses begin to wander from their nests.
    Bonin petrel - Chicks begin hatching and nonbreeding activity over colonies increases.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Nesting and egg laying continues. Aerial courtship displays are more frequent.
    Great frigatebird – Courtship, nest building and egg laying begins on Eastern Island.
    Red-footed booby - Nest building and egg laying continues on Eastern Island, the first chicks hatch in March.
    Terns - Egg laying continues and a few chicks may be present. More gray-backed and sooty terns return to Eastern and Spit Islands.
    Shearwaters - Christmas shearwaters, which nest only on Eastern Island, begin returning to the atoll. A few wedge-tailed shearwaters may arrive later in the month.

    Hawaiian monk seal births can occur during any month, but most pups are born between late March and early April, but birthing has been recorded year round. 


    April

    Albatross - The chicks continue growing and many wander from their nests.
    Bonin petrel - Hatching is completed during April.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Some chicks begin hatching, but eggs continue to be laid as well.
    Great frigatebird - Egg laying continues on Eastern Island.
    Red-footed booby - Egg laying continues and more chicks begin to hatch. 
    Black noddy - Nesting and chick rearing continues.
    Brown noddy - Brown noddies begin returning to the atoll.
    Terns - White tern chicks are more numerous, though egg laying continues. Gray-backed terns begin laying eggs by mid-April and sooty terns begin laying eggs by the end of the month. 
    Shearwaters - Christmas shearwaters begin nesting, while adult wedge-tailed shearwaters are spending their nights courting and beginning to burrow.

    Populations of shorebirds begin to decrease as these birds start their migration to their summer breeding grounds. Some of these birds have spent their entire winter on Midway.

    Hawaiian monk seals undergo a complete molt each year, typically between April and December. The seals shed all of their hair and a layer of skin within approximately 7-10 days and usually remain on shore the majority of the time.


    May

    Albatross - Laysan and black-footed chicks continue growing and are much better at walking. They begin showing some adult feathers.
    Bonin petrel - Some chicks fledge near the end of May. The presence of adults begins to decline.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Some eggs are just being laid, while many chicks are also hatching.
    Great frigatebird - More eggs are laid on Eastern Island, while some chicks hatch. 
    Red-footed booby - Egg laying ends on Eastern Island and chicks continue to hatch and grow.
    Black noddy - Nesting and chick rearing continues.
    Brown noddy - Brown noddies begin their egg laying.
    Terns - White tern egg laying and hatching continues as their peak breeding season begins. Gray-backed terns begin hatching in May, but egg laying may continue during the month. More adult sooty terns return to Eastern Island and egg laying peaks this month. As many as 75,000 pairs blanket the ground on Eastern Island.
    Shearwaters - Christmas shearwaters continue nesting and adult wedge-tailed shearwaters keep busy building their burrows.

  • Summer

    turnstone

    June

    Albatross - Adult black-footed albatrosses begin leaving the atoll and a few chicks may fledge. Laysan albatross chicks are almost full grown and fewer adults are seen.
    Bonin petrel - All chicks fledge this month.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Eggs are still being laid and incubated, but most chicks have hatched and are growing.
    Great frigatebird - More chicks are seen on Eastern Island.
    Red-footed booby - Chicks continue to hatch and grow.
    Black noddy - Most chicks are half grown.
    Brown noddy - Most are still incubating their eggs, while some have hatched chicks.
    Terns - Peak number of white terns are present on the atoll. Chicks continue to grow, egg laying and hatching are nearly complete. More gray-backed tern chicks have hatched. Most sooty tern chicks hatch in June.
    Shearwaters - Christmas shearwater chicks begin to hatch and wedge-tailed shearwaters begin laying eggs.

    Adult green turtles migrate from foraging grounds throughout the Hawaiian Islands to breeding grounds. Males appear to migrate every year, arriving ahead of the females. Females return to the same beaches where they were born every 2-4 years to lay eggs, generally in the summer months.

    Hatchlings emerge en-masse, usually at night, from a sandy 2-ft deep nest after about 60 days.  

    July

    Albatross - Remaining black-footed adults and newly fledged chicks depart Midway this month. More juvenile Laysan albatross are fledging and only a few adults remain.
    Bonin petrel - All adults and chicks have left Midway by early July.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Most chicks have hatched and fledging of some chicks may begin.
    Great frigatebird - Peak number of chicks are seen on Eastern Island.
    Red-footed booby - Most of the chicks have hatched and continue to grow. Some chicks may even be fledging.
    Black noddy - Most chicks are half grown and some have fledged.
    Brown noddy - Most brown noddy chicks hatch in July, while some adults are just laying eggs.
    Terns - White tern chicks vary from hatchlings to older chicks ready to fledge. More gray-backed tern chicks are hatching and some fledging. Sooty tern chicks are growing.
    Shearwaters - Christmas shearwater chicks are growing while adult wedge-tailed shearwaters continue incubating eggs.

    August

    Albatross - Any remaining juvenile Laysan albatrosses have left the island by late August.
    Bonin petrel - These birds are not absent from the atoll for long, as they begin returning and renovating their nesting burrows in August.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - More of the early chicks are fledging, but a few eggs may be laid in renesting attempts.
    Great frigatebird - Chicks continue to grow.
    Red-footed booby - Chicks continue to grow and some are ready to fledge the nest.
    Black noddy - Chicks continue to grow and many are fledging.
    Brown noddy - Many chicks have just hatched and some adults are still incubating eggs.
    Terns - Many white tern chicks have fledged by the end of August. More gray-backed tern chicks are fledging as well as most sooty tern chicks.
    Shearwaters - Christmas shearwater chicks are still growing and wedge-tailed shearwater chicks are beginning to hatch.

    While large numbers of seabirds may be leaving the atoll, shorebirds - especially Pacific golden plovers and ruddy turnstones begin returning from their northern breeding grounds. Smaller numbers of bristle-thighed curlews and wandering tattlers may also be spotted.

  • Fall

    Goonie bird

    September

    Bonin petrel - Many adults are present on the atoll, courting and excavating burrows.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Fledging continues and a few older chicks remain.
    Great frigatebird - Chicks are still growing.
    Red-footed booby - Most of the chicks learn to fly this month.
    Black noddy - Most chicks have fledged.
    Brown noddy - Most chicks have fledged while some adults are caring for young chicks.
    Terns - Most white terns have fledged. Fewer gray-backed terns are seen and most sooty terns depart by the end of September.
    Shearwaters - Christmas and wedge-tailed shearwater chicks continue to grow. A few Christmas shearwater chicks are fledging and more wedge-tailed chicks are hatching.

    Shorebird flocks continue to arrive on Midway. Pacific golden plover, ruddy turnstone, and bristle-thighed curlew populations peak for the fall season in September.

    October

    Albatross - The first black-footed and Laysan albatrosses return in the latter half of October.
    Bonin petrel - Many adults are present on the atoll and busy building their burrows.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - The season’s remaining young generally fledge by the end of October.
    Great frigatebird - Juveniles begin to fledge.
    Red-footed booby - All but the last chicks of the season fledge by October.
    Black noddy - With their long nesting season, black noddies may start nesting and laying eggs in October.
    Shearwaters - More Christmas shearwater chicks are fledging and wedge-tailed chicks continue to grow.

    Many shorebirds remain on Midway over the winter, but others depart for warmer climates.

    November

    Albatross - Black-footed albatrosses are busy building nests and laying eggs in November. Most of the Laysan albatrosses return during November though the early arrivals may begin laying eggs by late November.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Fledging continues and a few older chicks remain.
    Great frigatebird - The last of the season’s juveniles fledge.
    Black noddy - Some black noddies continue nesting and laying eggs.
    Shearwaters - The last Christmas shearwater chicks fledge and depart, followed by all of the wedge-tailed shearwaters near the end of the month.

  • Winter

    Blackfooted small image

    December

    Albatross - Black-footed albatrosses are incubating eggs and most of the Laysan albatross eggs are laid this month.
    Bonin petrel - Many adults are present on the atoll.
    Black noddy - Black noddies continue nesting and laying eggs in December and small numbers of brown noddies are seen.
    Terns - The number of white terns begin to increase.

    January

    Albatross - The first black-footed albatross chicks usually hatch during mid-month, followed one or two weeks later by Laysan albatross chicks. Parent birds spend most of their time on the nest.
    Bonin petrel - Secure in their underground burrows, egg laying starts. Many nonbreeding birds are active over the colonies at night.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - January is the beginning of courtship for early season nesters. 
    Red-footed booby - Nesting occurs only on Eastern Island. Adults are present in January and may be building nests or laying eggs by the end of the month.
    Black noddy - The nesting cycle for black noddies occurs over a long time period.

    February

    Albatross - By the end of the month, all black-footed albatross and Laysan albatross chicks have hatched. Adults start leaving older chicks unattended while feeding at sea.
    Bonin petrel - Nesting continues during February, and many nonbreeders are visible at night.
    Red-tailed tropicbird - Some nesting and egg laying begins by late February, though more courtship displays are still ongoing.
    Great frigatebird - Courtship and nest building may occur in February but is limited to Eastern Island. 
    Red-footed booby - Nest building and egg laying continues on Eastern Island.
    Black noddy - Some nesting and chick rearing continues during February.
    Terns - Some white terns begin laying eggs in February. These birds lay their eggs on tree branches, on top of utility poles, on ledges, or wherever they fancy. Gray-backed and sooty terns begin returning to Eastern and Spit Islands near the end of February.

    View the Seabird Breeding Cycle Fact Sheet

    Visit the Birds of Midway photo gallery

Page Photo Credits — ©Dan Clark
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2015
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