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Grey Noddy

Anous albivitta

The Grey Noddy, or Grey Ternlet, is a seabird of modest size, with a length ranging from 28 to 31 centimeters and a wingspan stretching between 46 and 60 centimeters. It tips the scales at approximately 75 grams. This bird is characterized by its pale grey plumage, which is almost white on the head and underparts, but transitions to a darker shade on the back, tail, and wings. The wings are adorned with dark tips and a white trailing edge, and are predominantly white on the underside. The eye of the Grey Noddy is a striking black, accentuated by a black patch in front, and a contrasting white patch behind. Its bill is thin and pointed, cloaked in black, while its legs and feet are also black, save for the pale yellow webs.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Grey Noddy, look for its fairly long and notched tail, and the distinctive coloration of its plumage. Juveniles can be distinguished by their browner appearance and darker, more contrasting flight feathers. The bird's large black eye, surrounded by a black and white facial pattern, is a key feature to note.


The Grey Noddy is found in subtropical and warm temperate waters of the south Pacific Ocean, where it frequents shallow waters not far from its breeding colonies.


This species is widely distributed across the south Pacific. The subspecies A. a. albivitta breeds on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, the Kermadec Islands near northern New Zealand, and southern Tonga. A. a. skottsbergii is found on Henderson Island, Easter Island, and Sala y Gómez, while A. a. imitatrix breeds on the Desventuradas Islands off the coast of Chile. Occasional sightings have been reported in Australia, the Pitcairn Islands, San Ambrosio and San Felix Islands, and the Ellice Islands.


The Grey Noddy is known to feed in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands. It employs a feeding strategy of hovering over the water and plucking food from the surface. Its diet primarily consists of plankton, supplemented by small fish.


Breeding occurs in colonies situated on rocky islands. The nest is typically placed on a sheltered rocky ledge or beneath a boulder or vegetation. A single, whitish egg with dark markings is laid and incubated by both parents for about 32 days. The chick is nourished with regurgitated food and takes its first flight after roughly 35 days.

Song & Calls

The Grey Noddy is generally a silent bird, but it does emit a soft, purring call.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Grey Noddy is predominantly planktonic, with small fish also contributing to its nourishment. Its feeding behavior involves skimming the ocean's surface, often in the vicinity of its breeding grounds.

Conservation status

The Grey Noddy is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that it does not face any immediate threat of extinction.

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Grey Noddies on Birda

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Profile picture for Ed Jenkins
Ed Jenkins
19 Apr 2012 - 12:00am
New Zealand

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A photo of a Black Noddy (Anous minutus)

Black Noddy

Anous minutus
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