Common Noddy

Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
Throughout the year, sometimes with peaks in spring and autumn
Clutch Size: 
1 to 2 eggs
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Common Noddy is the largest and brownest of three noddies (dark-plumaged terns) found in Australian waters. Its white cap is sharply cut off by a black mark between the bill and eye. The underwing is pale with dark edges. The tail is long and bifurcated, the bill is long and rather stout, and the wings are long and narrow. The Common Noddy is also known as the Brown Noddy or Noddy Tern.

Similar species: 

The Common Noddy is similar to the Black Noddy (or White-capped Noddy) A. minutus, and to the Lesser Noddy A. tenuirostris. All are found widely in tropical seas. The Black Noddy is blackish brown with a darker underwing and greyer tail than the Common Noddy, and the Lesser Noddy is smaller, with a diffusely defined pale grey crown.

Where does it live?

The Common Noddy is found in tropical and sub-tropical seas off the west, north and east coasts of Australia, from the Abrolhos Islands in WA to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef in Qld, as well as Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands. Some are seen almost annually in NSW as far south as Sydney. It also ranges across tropical parts of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.


The Common Noddy is found on off-shore tropical islands, often in large colonies of more than 100,000 nests.

Seasonal movements: 

The Common Noddy is a wide-ranging species, but there is no seasonal migration associated with breeding. It is probably dispersive from colonies in March and April, but details of its movement patterns are poorly known.

What does it do?

The Common Noddy feeds on small fish, squid, pelagic molluscs, insects and even Pandanus fruit. Most items are skimmed from the surface of the ocean by dipping.


The Common Noddy breeds on islands. It lays one egg in an untidy shallow nest of seaweed, grass and twigs, either on the ground or in low bushes and trees. Breeding can occur throughout the year at some sites, but at others there is a peak of breeding in spring and another in autumn.

Living with us

Some of the islands used by Common Noddies are heavily used also by humans (e.g. Heron Island), but they appear little disturbed by close human contact.

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