Affinis Gull-billed Terns, more

To: birding-aus <>, Jill Dening <>
Subject: Affinis Gull-billed Terns, more
From: David James <>
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 19:48:02 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Jill,
The earliest Australian records of affinis were two collected at the estuaries 
of the North and South Alligator Rivers in Feb 73 and October 84 respectively 
(See Schodde 1991: Bull. B.O.C. 111(4): 216-6). John MacKean  (1981: 
Australasian Seabird Group Newsl. 15: 11-15) reported small numbers of affinis 
in  the Darwin area between Sept and April, and implied that they were 
regular.  I haven't spent much time in the top end at all, but I saw a few 
affinis types on a bank in the Adelaide River at the mouth of Leaders Ck on 
9/10/00. I'd be surprised if there weren't many more records, because they are 
certainly there. 
I didn't find them in NQ during 9 yrs there between 1993 and 2002, though I 
didn't look very often. 
I checked my notes and the first Gull-billed's from SEQ were found by Chris 
Corben and David Stewart in early December 1990. These were an adult and a 1st 
yr bird. When I went to look at them with Dave on 20/12/90 only the first year 
was there. I guess the ones at Wynum that Paul Wallbridge referred to were a 
different lot?
Dion Hobcroft and I saw one at Stockton Sandspit, (Hunter River) on 22/2/91. 
I'm not aware of any other NSW records, and had assumed this to be the southern 
most record in Australia until we learnt about the Murray Bridge record on B-A 
the other day. 
For the sake of completeness I have also seen a single affinis on Christmas 
Island, (where macrotarsa is possible but less likely) and in large numbers at 
Derby, WA. 
Actually, I have doubts that the correct name of these birds is affinis. There 
is a only the slightest cline between affinis and nominate nilotica. The type 
locality of affinis is Java where the species does not breed. Some years ago I 
tried to find out where it might breed, and concluded that it must be 
north-eastern Asia. This means that affinis appears to be incorrectly used for 
eastern populations of nilotica migrating through southern Asia and the birds 
we see are probably nilotica. Mathews named the breeding birds in China as 
addenda, which makes things a little more complicated.   

--- On Fri, 18/3/11, Jill Dening <> wrote:

From: Jill Dening <>
Subject: Affinis Gull-billed Terns, more
To: "birding-aus" <>
Received: Friday, 18 March, 2011, 12:20 PM


I was talking offline with a list member, about the sightings of affinis 
gullbills, and wondering why there don't seem to be any reports of sightings 
across the Top End, when they seem to appear regularly during the summer in the 
North-west (Broome) and the North-east (Cairns). Or have I missed reports of 
them? Do they appear in between west and east during the summer period when 
they are present? Can anyone enlighten us? (The New Atlas doesn't differentiate 
between subspecies.)


-- Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S    152° 56' 00"E

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