Tern Id

To: "Steve Murray" <>, <>
Subject: Tern Id
From: "Chris Corben" <>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2006 14:15:11 -0600
Gooday Steve

I photographed at Shorncliffe QLD recently. I am thinking immature or
non-breeding whiskered Tern.

A Whiskered would have longer legs, a smaller bill, different headshape and a much shorter tail. There isn't any chance this is a Whiskered. You certainly have to be careful, as superficially Whiskered can look quite like this, but not in detail.

I think it's a Common Tern, which is by far the most likely species in terms of normal occurrence. 15 years ago, Common Terns were quite common around the Redcliffe Peninsula, and seeing 100 in a flock at Shorncliffe was perfectly normal. Since then, it seems the Recliffe Peninsula has been basically nuked of most of its coastal wildlife. When I have been there in recent years, I have been astonished at how dead the region is for waders, terns and other birds of the shore, which used to be a real feature of the area.

It is a slightly funny-looking bird for this time of year, though - so what does "recently" mean? A date would be helpful. ID as Common is not completely without pitfalls given only one photo. The legs look surprisingly short, but I suspect the photo is a bit deceptive in that respect. The form of the bill, the very dark cubital bar, the colour of the primaries and the head pattern all suggest Common rather than Arctic. A White-fronted would have a larger head, finer, more spikey-looking bill and white would show along the upper edge of the primaries.

Cheers, Chris.

Chris Corben


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