Field Notes of Max Thompson

Dublin Core


Field Notes of Max Thompson


As part of the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program, Research Curator Max Thompson spent 3 days on Palmyra in March of 1967, cataloguing birds with other project members.

This excerpt from his field journals described the activities and various species observed while there.


Max C. Thompson






Public Domain



Text Item Type Metadata


17th of March, 1967

Sula dactylatra

17 Mar
An immature was seen by Chandler on South beach, flying.

18 Mar
A subadult flying by ship landed on the helio deck and was caught and banded.

Sula leucogaster

16 Mar
Stadel and DeLong made observations and counted the birds on the spit off the causeway. This data can be found in Stadel's notes. We banded them in evening.

17 Mar
Visited Booby Island on far side of atoll. This data is also in Stadel's notes. A summary follows here:

Total nests: 137 (103 on spit, 34 on island)
No. 1 egg clutches: 25
No. 2 egg ‘’ : 53
No. 3 egg “ : 03
No. ? small chick: 32
No. ? medium: 14
No. ? large: 9
No. ? naked: 1

Populate Estimate: 800 - + 20%

At least one clutch of two eggs was broken and the egg was rotten. We never saw the females of the 3 egg clutches so we couldn’t collect it.

Fregate minor

12 March
Visited the islands across the causeway today. This species was nesting on at least the small Pisonia Island. Stadel’s notes have the nest count. The birds were nesting in the Pisonia about 40’ high. At least one young was seen in the nest. It was probably 2-3 weeks old. Males with inflated pouches were seen as were bird caring nesting material. Birds were seen around other islands also but not as common as this one. Seven breeding birds were collected. Population estimate: 500 + - 20% error.

Sterna fuscata

16 March

We banded this evening on the causeway and spit plus the runway area. Sure spooky and very few banded. On the causeway they were nesting on the road which had been cleared. On the spit they were under brush and scaveola. No egg measurements were taken due to a misunderstanding about ship departure. A large swirl formed each evening over the west end of the runway. They settled on the southside of the runway often after dark.

17 March

Bled 150 birds tonite and banded a few bringing our total to 13000.
Population estimate: 255,000 + - 20% error
Bob found birds laying on island at end of spit. They weren’t down or laying yesterday.

Anous stolidus

16 Mar

Fairly common around the palous?. At least one egg and 1 chic seen so evidence for breeding in there but numbers unknown. Collected several (7) for skins.
Population estimate: 20,000+ - 50%
Birds were most numerous on Cooper Island and around to Kaula Island where they were uncommon.

Anous minutus

15 March

A few birds seen around Cooper Is. but Sand Island and islands near channel have quite a few breeding. Nests contain both eggs and young from just hatched to nearly fledged. 22 clutches were measured. An abundant population was present on Eastern? Island. Population estimate for whole island is 150,000+ - 20%. On island next to Sand in the lagoon, DeLong counted 3 nests with eggs, 9 with some downy young, 20 with ???, 13 with large downy young and 22 unknown, 2 building. Nests were in Scaveola and Messershmidtia.

75% of estimated population was on Eastern Island.

Gygis alba

15-17 Mar

Fairy Terns were seen in nearly every part of the atoll but were most common around Eastern Island and the east end of Cooper. Hovering over the head was observed. Only one next was found and photos taken. Five were collected for skins including one pair sitting on a branch together. Population Estimate, 1000 + - 20%.


Max C. Thompson, “Field Notes of Max Thompson,” Palmyra Archive, accessed September 25, 2020,


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