Saturday, May 3, 2014

More Least Tern behavior antics

About three weeks ago, four Least Terns arrived at a lake in our local south Florida wetlands. There was only one female and this caused competition between the three males. The female had already started to bond with one of the males and over the next week he successfully drove the others away. In courtship gestures, they tried to feed the female small fish but she consistently rejected the offerings of the non-bonded males, as documented in an earlier post. On the morning of April 28th one of the male interlopers reappeared and it gave me an opportunity to observe and record this behavior. My photos and video were of rather poor quality because most of the action took place just after sunrise.

Over about 90 minutes I observed the three terns on the lake this morning. The female would only accept the offering of a minnow from the male with whom she has bonded over the past two weeks. I shot photo sequences to document the acceptance from the intended mate and refusal of minnows offered by the intruder. I also have videos of three similar subsequent courtship feeding encounters with the same results.

The first sequence begins as the female awaits the arrival of her bonded mate.

Least Tern female waits for bonded male 11- 20140428

He arrives with a small minnow.

Least Tern bonded male brings fish 12- 20140428

She eagerly accepts the offering.

Least Tern female accepts fish from bonded male 13- 20140428

Least Tern female accepts fish from bonded male 14- 20140428

Least Tern female accepts fish from bonded male 15- 20140428

The male departs before she even finishes swallowing the fish.

Least Tern bonded male departs 16- 20140428

Least Tern bonded male departs 17- 20140428

Now the intruding male is approaching the same female with a fish. This was his third try this morning.

Least Tern female waits for intruder male 21- 20140428

Least Tern intruder male brings fish 22- 20140428

He similarly offers it as a courtship gesture.

Least Tern intruder male offers fish 23- 20140428

The female tern appears uninterested in his prize.

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 24- 20140428

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 25- 20140428

He tries valiantly to attract her interest in the gift.

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 26- 20140428

He dangles the minnow in front of the reluctant female, to no avail.

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 27- 20140428

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 28- 20140428

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 29- 20140428

Least Tern female refuses fish from intruder male 30- 20140428

The male ends up eating the fish before departing.

Least Tern intruder male ingests fish 31- 20140428

The following video documents three other encounters, two by the insurgent male, with similar results. It is best viewed full-screen. If there is a blank space below, click here.






13 comments:

  1. just laughing at her looking at your camera, like, 'i wish he'd just leave me alone!' :)

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  2. Took long enough for him to get the message! They are excellent captures!

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  3. Awesome shots! She knows who she wants. :)

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  4. Wonderful photos and very elegant birds.

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  5. Awwww, poor guy. I do hope he finds a mate soon.
    Love this series...and your commentary.

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  6. Wow, awesome series on the Terns! They are one of my favorite birds. Great post.

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  7. Love it! TexWisGirl got the caption right on that shot.

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  8. This is such amazing documentation of the tern's behavior. Would never have thought they would act like that in my wildest dreams. It is quite hard not to anthromorphize!

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  9. HI Kenneth These are a wonderful series of shots and their courtship antics. I loved the video adn now I know what you sound like!!

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  10. if I am lucky enough to see somthing like this I could study them for ever. :) Great story and shots.

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  11. And if all goes well that means there will be young terns soon! At least we can hope!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  12. What a great series of Tern behavior, Ken! Nice work!

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