Birds of Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll is home to more than 29 species of birds. Here are a dozen of the most frequent visitors.

Named for its elongated red tail streamers, the red-tailed tropicbird is a rare but graceful sight at Palmyra.

Between 1993-2002 the number of ground-nesting sooty terns at Palmyra dropped from 750,000 to around 140,000. With rats removed from the atoll, their numbers are rebounding.

A migratory winter visitor from Alaska, the wandering tattler can usually be found along the shoreline at Palmyra.

Palmyra is home to the world’s second largest nesting colony of red-footed boobies, with a total population estimated at 6,250 pairs.

One of three species of boobies found on the atoll, brown boobies nest and roost on the ground and regularly forage in Palmyra’s lagoons.

Masked boobies at Palmyra feed primarily on small fish and squid and are spectacular divers, plunging diagonally into off-shore waters from as high as 100 feet.

Palmyra shelters approximately 20,000 black noddies, the largest nesting colony in the central Pacific.

The great frigatebird usually perches on high tree branches at Palmyra. Males are smaller than females and inflate their red throat pouches to attract a mate.

Angelic-like white terns are small seabirds that nest in trees. Like ground-nesting sooty terns, their numbers are increasing now that rats have been removed from the atoll.

The Pacific golden plover nests and raises its young in Alaska’s arctic tundra. But come September, this hardy little shorebird flies non-stop to Palmyra and other Pacific islands.

Calico in color with a short bill and reddish-orange legs, the ruddy turnstone migrates from the Arctic Circle to Palmyra, wintering along the atoll’s sheltered coastlines.

The bristle-thighed curlew is another seasonal visitor from Alaska, easily recognized by its lengthy down-curved bill. More than 200 curlews winter in Palmyra.