By Elizabeth Vawter
Bird Island is one of the many motus that surround the atoll of Suwarrow National Park in the Cook Islands of the South Pacific. This island has a cloud of birds that come there to nest every year. A rough estimate of the number of birds is five hundred thousand. We were very lucky to have the chance to visit this island, also known as Manu Island. “Manu” means bird in the local language. We were, in fact, the only boat who got to go to this island this whole year. So, seize your chances!
Harry and John, the two kind Park Rangers who took us, needed to inspect the bird population and that was our chance to go along. Sooty Terns, Redfooted Boobies, Magnificent and Lesser Frigates, Noddys and Redtailed Tropic birds come to this island to nest. The sound of all the birds combined could break your ear drums. The Tropic birds are very rare to see on this island. Sooty Tern eggs are scattered all the way around the island on the ground. The Sooty Terns are everywhere and you need to make sure not to step on the eggs because there are so many. They blend into the dead coral rocks with their purple splotches on their white egg shells. Harry told us that they can fly for six months without stopping for a rest.
Red Footed Booby babies are white and poufy when they are young, but they get black feathers when they get old. The frigate bird babies are very alike, but some of the newly hatched babies look like ugly, but cute, plucked chickens. They nest in the tall bushes and trees. If you get too close to a very young baby the mother will grab the baby, fly to a high height and drop the baby. We didn’t see this happen because we didn’t get too close.
For an island that has no inhabitance, Bird Island has lots of trash that has swept onto the island from the sea. We saw plastic water bottles, glass bottles, FAD’s (fish attracting devices – rafts used to provide shade and habitat for fish so people can catch them), rope and lots of awful plastic garbage. So, when you buy single use plastic or you put something in the trash, think about where it is going to go first. Otherwise, if you go to Suwarrow, I hope you have a chance to visit Bird Island.