Francis Blackwood on the HMS Fly discovered the cay in 1843 while looking for shipping channels through the Great Barrier Reef. The ship’s geologist named it Heron Island after the large number of Pacific reef herons there.
In December there are about 200,000 birds on the island of which probably the most numerous is the Black noddy tern. As you walk along the beach they fly directly towards you to investigate, only veering off at the last moment.
Falling to the gound can be dangerous for a noddy chick due to the rather sinister Pisonia trees - also known as catchbirdtrees, birdcatcher trees or birdlime trees. The Pisonia's seeds are sticky to ensure dispersal on birds between islands but may entangle a bird in the sticky seed heads. Unable to free itself, a bird will starve to death, so enriching the soil within the tree's rootzone.