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Unveiling the Fascinating Behaviors of Blue-Gray Noddies

Blue-gray Noddy: An Overview

As bird enthusiasts, most of us have probably seen a Blue-gray Noddy at least once in our lifetimes. These handsome birds, also known as Anous ceruleus, are seabirds that are found in tropical and subtropical regions across the world.

They are excellent fliers but are equally adept at swimming and have a key role to play in showcasing the beauty of our planet’s rich and diverse wildlife.




One of the most distinctive features of the Blue-gray Noddy is its deep blue-gray color which extends from the head, neck, back, and wings. Their legs and bills are dark-colored, and their tails are slightly forked.

The males and females look almost identical, which can make it harder to differentiate between the sexes.

Similar Species:

The Brown Noddy is often confused with the Blue-gray Noddy, although there are some differences.

The Brown Noddy is darker in color, has a white forehead, and a longer tail. Other similar species include the Black Noddy, which is smaller than the Blue-gray Noddy and has black underparts.

The white tern is also similar to the Blue-gray Noddy, but it has a white body and a black cap.


The Blue-gray Noddy has two plumages a breeding plumage and a non-breeding or basic plumage. During the breeding season, these birds have a dark cap that extends down to their necks.

They also have a more pronounced blue-gray color, with a slightly paler appearance. In non-breeding or basic plumage, the dark cap disappears, and the overall color becomes paler.


Like most birds, Blue-gray Noddies undergo a molting process. The birds undergo a full body molt once a year, usually after the breeding season.

Molting is the process by which birds replace old feathers with new ones. The Blue-gray Noddy’s molt usually lasts around 2-3 months and results in a complete change of their feather.

It is worth noting that molting is a process that requires high energy, which is why Blue-gray Noddies tend to molt during the non-breeding season, when food is more abundant and the birds do not need to expend energy on breeding activities.


Overall, the Blue-gray Noddy is a fascinating bird species that is worthy of our attention. Whether in breeding or non-breeding plumage, these birds remain beautiful and majestic, showcasing the wonders of nature.

They are an essential bird to study and understand given their ubiquitous presence in coastal and oceanic habitats. They have also been known to have harmful interactions with marine habitat and their conservation and management are critical to their survival.

The Blue-gray Noddy (Anous ceruleus) is a globally distributed seabird species that is widely known for its striking blue-gray plumage. This bird species belongs to the family of seabirds known as Laridae, which predominantly consists of gulls, terns, and skimmers.

In this article, we will explore the systematics history of the Blue-gray Noddy, including geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to its distribution.

Systematics History

The systematics history of the Blue-gray Noddy has been subject to several revisions and changes over time. The species was initially described by the French naturalist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1818 and was first known as the Cerulean Noddy.

The Blue-gray Noddy was later classified under the tern family, Sternidae, before being moved to the gull and tern family, Laridae. Molecular studies have, however, suggested that the Blue-gray Noddy is most closely related to the family Alcidae (auks, murres, and puffins), and it is sometimes placed with the genera Cerorhinca or Ptychoramphus.

Geographic Variation

The distribution of Blue-gray Noddies is limited to tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. However, this bird species exhibits geographic variation in its plumage, size, and vocalizations across its range.

In the Indian Ocean, the birds have more extensive grayer plumage than their Atlantic counterparts. In contrast, the birds found in the Pacific Ocean tend to have more extensive white plumages on their bellies, with less distinct blue-gray markings.

Vocalizations of the Blue-gray Noddy have also been observed to vary geographically. Some populations in the Pacific have a more complex and variable call note than the more straightforward call of their Atlantic counterparts.


Five distinct subspecies of the Blue-gray Noddy have been recognized based on differences in plumage, size, and range. These subspecies are Anous ceruleus ceruleus, Anous ceruleus elachistus, Anous ceruleus dormeri, Anous ceruleus murphyi, and Anous ceruleus inornatus.

Anous ceruleus ceruleus: Also known as the Atlantic Blue-gray Noddy, this subspecies is the most widespread, breeding and foraging in the Caribbean and the Atlantic coasts of Central and South Americas. Anous ceruleus elachistus: This subspecies is found in the eastern Pacific Ocean, breeding on islands off the coasts of Central and South America.

Anous ceruleus dormeri: The Gulf of Mexico and the northern Caribbean islands is the breeding range of this subspecies. Anous ceruleus murphyi: This subspecies breeds in Islands of the western Pacific including the Caroline Islands, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

Anous ceruleus inornatus: Also named the “Brown Noddy,” this subspecies is distributed in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including Madagascar, the Seychelles, and the Hawaiian Islands.

Related Species

The Blue-gray Noddy is part of a group of birds that spans several genera, all of which are known as noddies. The genus Anous consists of four species, including the Blue-gray Noddy, the Brown Noddy, the Black Noddy, and the Lesser Noddy.

The lesser noddy is very similar to the Blue-gray Noddy, but it is smaller and restricted to the Indian Ocean. The black noddy differs from the Blue-gray Noddy by having a uniformly dark brown plumage and pale beak with darker tips.

In contrast, the brown noddy has a chocolate brown plumage color and a broader range of global distribution.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Blue-gray Noddy has historically had significant changes in its distribution from the breeding seasons of the 19th century. The bird species was abundant in some historical breeding sites, such as the Dry Tortugas of Florida and the Bahamas.

However, during the first half of the 20th century, the bird’s population drastically declined due to overexploitation. The breeding population of Dry Tortugas collapsed to less than 200 pairs by the mid-1930s; this is partly due to human activities, including egg collection, hunting, and habitat destruction by landward development.

Restrictions on hunting, egg collection, and beach-going activities were enacted in the mid-20th century, and conservation efforts saw a rise in the Blue-gray Noddy population trends. Today, the Blue-Gray noddy is considered a species of “Least Concern” (LC) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The bird’s global population is healthy and gradually increasing. Nevertheless, unplanned human activities such as oil spills, marine pollution, and accidental trawling remain persistent risks to the survival of the Blue-gray Noddy and other marine species.

In conclusion, the Blue-gray Noddy is an essential species of seabird with a fascinating systematics history. Its geographic variation, subspecies, and related species can help in better understanding its taxonomy.

The bird’s story is also vital in highlighting the impact of human activities on the environment and the need for conservation measures to safeguard the diversity of our planet’s wildlife. The Blue-gray Noddy is a seabird species with a global distribution in tropical and subtropical oceanic waters.

These birds form large colonies on small islands and atolls and forage for food in pelagic waters. In this article, we will explore the habitats of the Blue-gray Noddy and its movements, including its migration patterns.


The Blue-gray Noddy is a pelagic seabird species that is found offshore in the open ocean. These birds form breeding colonies primarily on small islands and atolls, where they usually nest amongst rocks or in the crevices of trees or shrubs.

The birds prefer sandy substrates for nesting, although in some locations with no sandy substrate, they tend to nest on solid rock or coral. The Blue-gray Noddy is also known to form mixed colonies with other seabird species such as terns.

The birds initiate their breeding in April, typically peak by May or June in the Northern Hemisphere and October in the Southern Hemisphere. During this time, they are dependent on seafood close to their breeding locations, especially small fish and squid species that they catch mainly within a few kilometers of the colony.

The Blue-gray Noddy’s natural habitat usually allows them to feed by plunge-diving from the air or the water surface.

Movements and Migration

The Blue-gray Noddy is a non-migratory species. However, research has shown that individuals will move around and disperse after the breeding season, sometimes crossing large distances.

The movements may be influenced by oceanic conditions such as temperature, currents, and wind patterns as well as areal distribution of food abundance. Blue-gray Noddies are thought to have extensive foraging ranges during their non-breeding periods of the year.

The birds typically feed up to 50 km or more from their colonies, although investigations have reported possible movements of up to 600 km.

Between breeding seasons, these birds disperse themselves throughout the tropical and subtropical oceans, but they are less commonly encountered in coastal areas.

The Blue-gray Noddy’s dispersion patterns can span across multiple islands throughout the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, sometimes forming large flocks that travel together. Juvenile birds are known to disperse further from their birthplace ranging several hundreds of kilometers during their first years and mixing with related species of noddies.

The Blue-gray Noddy has been observed to show some localized movements in response to food scarcity, predators or unsuitable weather conditions. In some instances, they may abandon their colonies during periods of starvation and relocate in response to abundant food availability.

Migration patterns

Despite being considered a non-migratory species, the Blue-gray Noddy has been observed on occasion to engage in migration patterns outside of their typical range. There have been occasional sightings of Blue-gray Noddies in the coasts of California and Oregon, significantly north of their known breeding range.

This is believed to be due to either strong currents or storms blowing these birds far north of their usual range. Such sightings have occurred in other parts of the world too, demonstrating the capacity of these birds to travel long distances.


The Blue-gray Noddy is a seabird species that occurs globally in tropical and subtropical oceanic waters. These birds form large breeding colonies on small islands and atolls, typically nesting in rocky or shrubby crevices, or in sandy substrates.

While they are considered a non-migratory species, Blue-gray Noddies do disperse themselves around the oceans and are known to undertake localized movements depending on food availability, weather conditions, and other ecological or biological factors. The Blue-gray Noddy’s ability to travel and disperse widely adds to its ecological importance, with their interactions within and between different colonies and other seabird species less understood but important to their conservation strategies.

Diet and Foraging

The Blue-gray Noddy (Anous ceruleus) is a seabird species that predominantly feeds on small fish and squid species. These birds have a unique feeding strategy that is adapted to their pelagic lifestyle, allowing them to feed while skimming over the water surface in open oceanic waters.

In this article, we’ll explore the feeding habits and diet of the Blue-gray Noddy, as well as the metabolism and temperature regulation of the bird.


The Blue-gray Noddy feeds primarily by plunge diving and surface-skimming in open ocean waters. During plunge-diving, the birds fly over the ocean surface to search for prey like small squid and fish.

Once they spot a potential target, the birds initiate a dramatic speed-dive, submerging themselves meticulously in the water. During the dive, they swim for several seconds to catch their prey before resurfacing.

Surface-skimming is another feeding strategy the Blue-gray Noddy uses to feed. The bird glides at a low height over the ocean surface with the bill dipped just underneath the surface, searching for prey with its eyes.

Once it detects food, the bird can then dive into the water to catch their prey.


The Blue-gray Noddy’s diet varies depending on its habitat and geographic location. Studies have shown that the birds primarily feed on a wide variety of small pelagic fish and squid species, with the actual prey items varying widely from place to place.

The birds also consume invertebrates such as krill, and copepods depending on their geo-location. A study by Fleischer et al.

(1988) suggested that diet preference varied between the seasons, with the fish Lepidonotothen sp serving as the predominant food in winters and the squid Gonatus sp serving as the most significant prey in summers.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

As seabirds, Blue-gray Noddies have unique metabolic and physiological adaptations to survive in their aquatic and aerial environments. These birds are homeothermic, meaning their body temperature is consistent throughout the day irrespective of external temperatures.

They have the ability to maintain a constant body temperature even when they are active and generating heat, unlike most other birds that experience a fluctuating body temperature. The Blue-gray Noddy possesses a high metabolic rate and a large surface area to volume ratio, which allows rapid heat loss making thermal regulatory capacity essential when foraging.

This metabolic rate enables the birds to maintain high energy levels during flight and actual feeding activities.

Sounds and Vocal



Blue-gray Noddies have a distinctive and simple vocal communication system for communication among individuals, particularly during breeding necessities. The bird’s vocalizations are generally high-pitched chirps, buzzes, and whistles, which they use for communication among their colonies.

The birds emit a variety of calls while on the water or when flying, with the auk-like “voo-ooh” call being the most common. Adult birds are known to produce a noddynote call, a characteristic vocalization that is critical in maintaining their social cohesion within colonies.

The noddynote call, reserved for intra-species communication is usually heard at dawn and dusk near the colonies or on reefs. Research suggests that these calls may transport information on colony locations and food sources.

The calls provide social information to other birds in their colony about nesting or warning of predators. The Blue-gray Noddy also uss different calls to communicate with their mates during courtship and mating.

Male birds will make vocalizations to attract the attention of a female to initiate their copulatory behavior. Male birds producing a more complex and varied call are preferred by females.


The Blue-gray Noddy is a unique seabird species with a feeding strategy which stands out among other bird species. Their unique feeding strategy adapts them to their pelagic lifestyle, allowing them to hunt for prey while flying and skimming over the ocean surface.

They mostly consume small fish and squid species, but variation in their diet makes it difficult to define the exact prey items on which the birds feed. Blue-gray Noddies have an adapted physiology and metabolism to maintain a consistent body temperature during their airborne activities while maintaining high levels of metabolic activity.

The vocal communication system used by Blue-gray Noddies is essential during the breeding season, with the unique noddynote call serving as a signal for communication and social cohesion within colonies.


The Blue-gray Noddy (Anous ceruleus) is a unique seabird species that displays a range of behaviors including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behaviors. In this article, we will explore the Blue-gray Noddy’s various behaviors in detail.


The Blue-gray Noddy is a highly agile and acrobatic bird, capable of intricate flight patterns that allow them to move quickly and efficiently through the air to find prey. They also possess powerful wings, which they use to maintain steady flight over the ocean surface when foraging.

When flying, the birds exhibit an elegant, buoyant flight pattern that is both smooth and graceful, making them ideal candidates for aerial photography. The Blue-gray Noddy is capable of flying long distances and has been known to travel several hundred kilometers during their non-breeding season.


Blue-gray Noddies are highly efficient self-maintainers, effortlessly cleaning and preening their feathers during periods of inactivity. Preening their feathers helps to remove dirt and parasites while distributing oil across their feathers to retain their waterproofing properties.

Blue-gray Noddies will also frequently shake their wings to remove any dirt or debris that has become trapped on their feathers. Agonistic


Blue-gray Noddies exhibit aggressions during interactions with their competitors, particularly during territorial

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