White-tailed Tropicbird

A white-tailed tropicbird flying over North Kohala, Hawaii

Sometimes, when I’m walking along the coast, the first thing that alerts me to the presence of a bird is its shadow passing over me. This happened again a few days ago and I glanced up to see this White-tailed Tropicbird practically over my head and not by very much. By the time I wrestled my camera out the bird had glided out over the water and away. I watched it receding and put my camera away.

A white-tailed tropicbird flying over North Kohala, Hawaii

Moments later, I realized the bird was riding the wind back in my direction. I whisked my camera out and started doing pirouettes as it skimmed closer and turned again when overhead. Again it slid away towards the water. It repeated this maneuver two or three times before heading into the wind and out of sight.

I put my camera away again, hoping I had some good shots, and carried on with my walk. About a half mile father on, a shadow passed over me. I looked up and there was the bird again. I assumed it was the same one, and had snuck behind me while I wasn’t looking. This time the bird drifted out into the channel and disappeared towards Maui. These photos are from that encounter.

The next day, walking in the same area, I kept a watchful eye out for a reappearance, but didn’t see a thing … until a shadow passed over me. There it was again. This time the bird kept going and I didn’t even try to take a photo. It disappeared from view. A couple of minutes later, another shadow passed over. This was a different bird, following the first, so perhaps the day before had also been two birds.

I see these graceful birds once in awhile on my walks in this area, but I think large numbers of them can be found farther along the coast between Pololu and Waipio, nesting on the cliffs.

A white-tailed tropicbird flying over North Kohala, Hawaii

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