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Source: Personal experience (Sea Story)

Read this and other stories in the book, Noticing Nature, by Chuck Bonner. Also available in e-book format for Amazon Kindle.

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I was hanging out on the flight deck of USS Truxtun one Sunday afternoon off the eastern coast of Oahu. There wasn't much for us Reactor Operators to do but watch the island pass by. Unfortunately for the Fire Control Technicians, they had some work to do. I guess our recent war games had uncovered a problem, so they were busily testing the fire-control radars that controlled the Terrier/ASROC missile system.

Numerous and sundry seabirds were flying around us, from little terns to a large gull-like bird I had never seen before. I later looked them up and learned that they were red-tailed tropicbirds. I guess they expected us to do what fishing boats do: Throw a bunch of fish guts over the side every now and then. We didn't, but they kept on flying around the ship.

The tropicbirds especially would seem to grow bored, and suddenly head across the few miles back to Hawaii. Before long, they'd be back, lazily gliding around the after parts of the ship hoping for a handout.

Every now and then, the wanderings of a bird would bring it close to the buzzing fire-control radar antenna. I wondered how much power the system was putting out, and what effect it might have on a live bird.

Before too long, it happened. One of the tropicbirds passed just about ten feet in front of the radome and its concealed antenna. The bird suddenly stopped flapping and dropped like a rock, letting out a slow, groaning squawk.

It fell about twenty feet, nearly to the water, when it recovered its wings. Flapping slowly, it climbed back to about ten feet above the water and, obviously struggling, headed for the land.

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