Don C. Poole Photography photographs of Hawaii specializing in flora, fauna, and landscape.
This beautiful rare and endangered seabird has made its home in the downtown area of Honolulu. The Fairy Tern is very common around the Capitol and the surrounding areas of the city but is seldom seen outside of this locality. I am a photographer and not an ornithologist. The following text is from observation and my personal interaction with this particular fascinating bird.
This story begins several years ago while photographing surfing. I would occasionally notice a beautiful white bird flying in from the ocean and I would try to photograph it but with very little success. The Fairy Tern lives up to its name as it flies very fast and is particularly erratic.
In the last days of December, 2014, I waited entirely too long to have some minor surgery done. I went to the emergency room on New Year's Eve, spent 10 hours in surgery, and nearly 2 weeks in the hospital recuperating in excruciating pain. From my Queen’s Hospital window, I could see the Fairy Terns flying around in a Banyan tree off the courtyard. These beautiful birds entertained and fascinated me. I could think of nothing more than focusing (intended pun) on how to photograph them. With their help, I made it through this trying time.
The Fairy Tern mate for life and seem to like the city environment even though they're seabirds. They lay one egg on a branch in a tree usually in some kind of knot or indentation that keeps it secure but unfortunately that is not always the case. The mated pair will take turns sitting on the egg for one month usually changing partners in the mornings. As soon as the baby chick hatches, it's got to cling to the branch for dear life. I have observed this struggle sometimes successfully and then unfortunately ending with tragedy. I’ve seen a newly hatched baby chick disappear after one day and its distraught parents staying nearly two weeks on the same branch before carrying on with their life. Once the chick has hatched, the parents continuously feed the baby by bringing it small fish and squid. The parents can carry three or more fish in their beak at one time; I have no idea how they do it.
I have had Fairy Terns fly within 10 feet of me hovering in midair just to observe me. I guess they like to be photographed; wish they could tell me what they're thinking.
I had been observing a mated pair of Fairy Terns for nearly 30 days tending to their egg and knew the egg would be hatching soon. Like all newborns coming into the world at the worst possible time, it was a windy stormy evening when I set my camera and lens up to see the newly hatched baby chick which was now struggling for its life. It had hatched on a precarious perch and the wind had blown a branch underneath the chick. The wind was blowing the branch and threatening to pull the newborn chick off the limb to the ground which would not have ended well. The parent terns were nearby but could do nothing to help. My camera was set up on the fourth floor of a parking garage and the baby chick was 50 feet away from me. I could not help it. I could only observe and hope for the best. In my slideshow I show a few of the photographs of the baby chick’s struggle for life. On several occasions it completely disappeared only to show up again struggling using its small wings and head and beak to pull itself to a little safety. One of the parents finally was able to come to rest above the chick and help it survive the evening. The following day I observed the parents struggling to feed the baby chick. I reported this situation to the staff of the building and they in turn sent an email to the Humane Society describing the precarious situation. Sometime during the next two days, the chick miraculously got moved to a nearby safer limb with no waving branches. There are some people that this baby tern owes its life to. The following photographs that I have on my slideshow are of the same baby tern being fed by its parents and is now thriving.