birding-aus Question - Terns and Pigeons

To: "" <>
Subject: birding-aus Question - Terns and Pigeons
From: "Johnson, Fiona" <>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 11:42:03 +1000
Hello All

I have a couple of questions which I hope someone may be able to answer.

Firstly, I was on Heron Island (off-shore from Gladstone in Queensland) last
week and had a very brief sighting of a tern I wasn't familiar with.  The
story:  I was quite happily viewing a small group of terns resting on the
shoreline which included Black-naped, Lesser Crested and Crested.  I had
seen one Roseate in flight a couple of days before but not since.  I
suddenly noticed rich orange-red legs on two smallish terns and my initial
reaction was that I must have found some Roseates.  However, when my field
of view rose to their heads I found that they had yellow bills with black
ends (a bit more than just the tips) and that their head pattern was black
and white like Little, although I thought the change from white to black on
the forehead was a bit blunter rather than deeply jagged like a Little's
usually is.  At this point, of course, a person ran through the birds
putting them all to flight and I never saw these two birds again.

My question is:  what were these birds?  I'm OK with breeding plumage
identification of most terns but not necessarily with transitional or non
breeding plumage.  What is smallish, has orange/red legs, yellow/black bill
and black and white head?  I didn't get a decent size comparison or any idea
of plumage or wing/tail length specifics (except it was pale - big deal.
Aren't they all?!).  I noted in Pizzey and HANZAB that there have been a
couple of historical records of Fairy terns on Heron Island with the
suggestion that they may have come over from New Caledonia.  Is it possible
that that is what "my" terns were, or is there a far more obvious answer?

Secondly, my father found a dead feral pigeon in his house yard at Pearl
Beach (just north of Sydney).  The only mark or injury he could find on the
pigeon was a hole in its crop.  Apparently the crop was bulging and three
different types of small seeds were spilling out.  My father asked if a bird
could possibly fill its crop and then have the contents expand with
moisture, causing the crop to rupture.  Can anyone advise if this is
possible?  Or is it more likely the cause of death was from something

I look forward to hearing from anyone on these two topics.

Fiona Johnson
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