The Three Brothers islands on the Great Chagos Bank is a magical place filled with more birds than you would think could fit on the tiny islands. On Middle Brother, a beautiful island with its own large lagoon, over thirty thousand sooty terns were nesting, as well as noddy terns and red-footed boobies.

Anne Sheppard Middle Brother

Photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

On North Brother, a more challenging island to land on, thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters had nesting burrows in every suitable space on the ground that they could - except for that occupied by the ground-nesting brown boobies.

Photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

Photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

These illustrate how important unspoilt islands are for these birds, as, being ground nesters, they would be completely vulnerable to rats, cats, dogs and of course man in inhabited areas. The islands also illustrate another point raised by the expedition ornithologist Pete Carr, that Important Bird Areas (IBAs), of which Chagos has ten, should encompass not single islands but groups of islands.

South Brother normally has ten thousand pairs of nesting Sooty Terns, but this year they all seem to have moved to Middle Brother to nest. Therefore South Brother has no significant numbers of sooty terns nesting on it at the moment. It would still retain its IBA status, but if the group of islets collectively were one ‘IBA cluster’ then that would make more sense over the years and would cater for such movements.

Previously in this series:

Conserving Chagos: Science Expedition to World’s Largest “Ocean Park”

Conserving Chagos: Starting Out

Conserving Chagos: Manta Rays

Conserving Chagos: Last Day around Diego Garcia

Conserving Chagos: Salomons Atoll

Conserving Chagos: Stormy weather

Conserving Chagos: Nelsons Island

Conserving Chagos: Peros Banhos atoll

Conserving Chagos: Thoughts from the Diving Officer

Conserving Chagos: Last Day at Peros Banhos atoll

Conserving Chagos: On our way to Three Brothers