An almost all white tern at Kurramine Beach north Queensland

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Subject: An almost all white tern at Kurramine Beach north Queensland
From: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 17:57:20 +1000
Greetings and Help!
Just spent a great two days at Kurramine beach: eating, walking, swimming and resting with a good bit of birding thrown in.
The problematic bird, seen on all three days, was an almost all white tern. I do not think it is a White Tern as it was the same size as the little Terns which were often nearby. It was a solid white in colour and lacked the translucent quality (except in flight with the light behind it) that I remember White Terns having, nor did its bill turn up in that funny way. Its legs appeared orange or kaki depending on the light. At one time it walked away from me and I thought that the soles of its feet were yellow. The fine bill was all black. The eye was dark and this with the bill and feet exclude an albino. On landing it shuffled its wings a lot more than most of the Little Terns which it never joined as part of a flock. When it took to the air it was silent unlike the Little Terns. It sat apart from them and when flying at the same time stayed out of the group. On the crown rather than the nape was the hint of colour, grey-brown or silver depending on the angle at which it was viewed. The same colour was a faint wash on the scapulars and the outer greater coverts. There was no black behind the eye on the nape or in the primaries. The wings extended beyond the tail when sitting but the tail was only visible when the bird shuffled or raised its wings. I was not aware of the bird calling at any time.
Any ideas folks?
For tern lovers I should add that of the at least six Little Terns in breeding plumage one was sitting on two eggs. Other terns seen were Crested, Lesser Crested in good numbers and one each of Gull-billed and Caspian.
Other birds of interest on the beach included:-
6+ Tereck Sandpipers
9 Greytailed Tattlers
63 Lesser Sand Plovers ( one of which had a few rusty feathers on the breast. Is it really early or really late?)
2 Greater Sand Plovers
3 Beach Stone Curlews
80+ Red-necked Stints
1 Mangrove Heron
2 Osprey
4 Bar-tailed Godwits
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