re: Whiskered Tern shoulder patches

Subject: re: Whiskered Tern shoulder patches
From: "Niven" <>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 18:20:10 +0930
Hello all
I've been referred to some additional info on the topic of Whiskered 
Tern shoulder patches in Hanzab that I overlooked or 'under-read' 
(thanks to those who responded in that regard). The impression I've 
gained though is still that where a Whiskered Tern has a shoulder 
patch it is unlikely to be 'black' or 'bold'.
And still, the question of whether anyone on Birding-Aus has seen 
this plumage feature in the field remains unanswered. My reason 
for enquiring is as follows:
On Saturday at Palmerston (near Darwin) sewage works I was with 
a group of birders watching a mixed group of Whiskered and White-
winged Black Terns feeding when I saw a tern that had a bold black 
shoulder patch. I watched it briefly until it went out of my view, but 
it was then picked up by two other observers watching from further 
down the pond. The possibility of Black Tern came rapidly to mind. 
The tern flew to a different pond and was lost to view by all 
observers. Unfortunately due to restrictive access to the sewage 
works we had only been watching through the fence and could not 
follow the bird when it moved to a different area.
Subsequently I saw a Whiskered Tern (I think adult non-breeding) 
with an indistinct greyish shoulder patch, feeding over another 
pond, and two others with greyish shoulder patches the following 
day at McMinn's Lagoon (adult non-breeding) and Sanderson 
Sewage Works (bird showing clear traces of juvenile feathers on 
the back), both sites also in the Darwin region. None of these birds 
showed the obviously black patch of the original bird.
Clearly the Palmerston bird is more likely to be Whiskered than 
Black Tern, though due to the brevity of my views I would not rule 
out the rare option. Indeed, one of the  other observers commented 
that the bird would not have looked the slightest bit out of place 
amongst the numerous Black Terns he had been observing at his 
UK home a few weeks previously.
I guess at this stage the tern must be considered a potential 'mega' 
that got away, though I also consider it a good example of why we 
can't too rapidly jump to conclusions on IDs. 

Happy Birding
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