A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek

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Scientific stuff

Loggerhead sea turtle.
Also called Loggerhead marine turtle

Status: Endangered

Species:
Caretta caretta
Family: Cheloniidae
Order: Testudines
Subclass: Anapsida
Class: Reptilia

Identification:
Adult loggerheads have a carapace (shell) that is roughly heart-shaped, and is longer than it is wide. The carapace and flippers are brown or reddish brown, and the plastron (lower shell) is yellow.

The head is large and somewhat triangular, and older adults have very large heads. They get their name from their large heads.

(Hatchling loggerhead turtles are brown to dark brown with lighter brown plastron.)

Loggerheads have five pairs (occasionally six) of costal plates (between the centre and outer margin of the shell).

They have strong jaws, which they use to crush and feed on crustaceans and molluscs.

They can live more than 60 years.

Size:
Adult loggerheads have a carapace 70-110 centimetres long. Mature female loggerheads have a curved carapace with an average length of 96 cm (3 ft 2 inches). Hatchlings are about 4.5 centimetres (less than 2 inches) and weigh around 20 grams.

Personality:
Can bite and injure you badly with its powerful jaws if provoked.

Using our photos

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Photos of loggerhead hatchlings

After missing the hatching of a clutch of broad-shelled turtles at Calamvale Creek earlier this year, our photographer was anxious to find some other turtle hatchlings to photograph.

He said:

“I was very disappointed after missing Betsy the broad-shelled turtle's babies being born.

“But it was exciting to find that I could watch and photograph a different type of turtle — the loggerhead marine turtle — hatching at Mon Repos (pronounced mon ra-POH) only a month later.

“Loggerheads are an endangered species in Australia.

“The turtle laying and hatching process is a marvellous miracle of design.

“The tiny newborn turtles — who have never been in water or been taught to swim or survive — just tumble out of the nest in the sand and immediately head for the water.

“During their short dash to the surf, they take a magnetic imprint of their exact location so they can return 30 years or more later.

“Remember, these tiny turtles do this only minutes after emerging from their nest. They have never been in water before.

“Watching this event is an absolute highlight of a nature-lover's life!”

Loggerhead turtle hatchlings
from Mon Repos, Queensland

Also called: loggerhead sea turtle or loggerhead marine turtle

(Caretta caretta)

Newborn loggerhead sea turtles

Note: Because we missed the broad-shelled turtles hatching at Calamvale Creek, we will show you what another type of newly hatched turtle looks like. We went to Mon Repos beach and got photos of loggerhead turtles hatching. These marine turtles obviously are not the same as our creek's freshwater turtles, but they are cute and tiny.

Loggerhead turtle hatchling photographed minutes after leaving nest

This baby loggerhead emerged from its nest only minutes before we took this photo. It was one of more than 100 baby loggerhead turtles that hatched from the nest at Mon Repos, 14 kilometres from Bundaberg on the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia.

Large clutches

Two baby loggerhead turtle hatchlings from Mon Repos beach

Mother loggerheads lay their eggs in holes they dig in the sand between about November and February.

They lay around 127 eggs in each clutch, and may lay three clutches in a season. Incubation lasts between 6 and 8 weeks.

The babies use a small egg tooth on their nose and sharp claws on their front flippers to break the shell. All turtles in the clutch hatch together. They push up from the bottom of the nest and do a relay, as the leaders get tired, to reach the surface.

When the loggerhead hatchlings emerge, they swarm out of the nest and quickly scurry down the beach to the ocean.

They generally hatch at night — between sunset and sunrise. (The turtles on this page hatched at 9:30 pm during a full moon.)

Babies follow light

Newborn babies head towards the lowest light on the horizon, so researchers can use a small flashlight to direct the hatchlings away from the sea for a short time to study them.

Loggerhead turtles practise the swimming action they will take when released to head down to the sea

Artificial lights on nearby headlands or esplanades behind a beach can disorient the babies and cause them to go in the wrong direction. So conservation-minded governments try to keep artificial light to a minimum around nesting areas.

Magnetic imprinting

As the hatchlings scurry down to the water, an amazing process of “magnetic imprinting” takes place. The tiny turtles — only minutes old — take note of the magnetic field and orientation of the place on earth where they enter the ocean, and remember this forever.

Newborn loggerhead turtles

The females may take 30 years to return to their birthplace to lay their own eggs.

Surviving the ocean

The perils of the ocean are vast for the small turtles, and only about one in a thousand survives to maturity.

They can be hit by boat propellers or jet skis, swallow fishing lines or other debris that looks like food, get caught in shrimp or fish nets, or be picked off by birds and other predators.

When the loggerheads reach the ocean, they will swim 24 hours a day for several days, living mostly on the yolk sac protein from their eggs.

They can swim at speeds up to 25 kilometres and hour (15 miles per hour).

As they grow, they will expand their diet to eating jellyfish, crabs, shrimps, octopuses, conchs, small fish and sea urchins. They also sometimes eat seaweed.

Loggerhead turtle facts

You can see photos of a broad-shelled turtle laying her 7 eggs at Calamvale Creek in our articles on Betsy the broad-shelled turtle.