May 18, 2016

The Food Chain

White terns nest anywhere and everywhere on Midway. There was one pair who laid an egg in a shrub at the front corner of the Chokedee House, where I lived, and I got to watch their chick grow from the tiniest ball of fluff into a fledgling and eventually into a juvenile. One day, I noticed one parent sitting in the shrub with the fledgling nowhere to be found. I presumed it was out practicing to fly. But white terns don't feed their chicks by digesting and then regurgitating their food—they catch appropriately-sized fish in their bill, and bring them back whole. So this parent had to wait with these fish in its bill until its chick came back. Apparently it had been waiting a while, because as I stood there, taking advantage of the opportunity to get this close-up, an ant crawled up the tern's body, onto its bill, and into the mouth of the fish!