Affinis Gull-billed Terns, more

To: Jill Dening <>
Subject: Affinis Gull-billed Terns, more
From: David James <>
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 21:04:21 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Jill,
I started looking into the origin of these things in 1991, after the Newcastle 
sighting and before I joined the HANZAB team for Vol 2. By the time we were 
ready to write Gull-billed Tern for Vol 3 I was busy in NZ with large skuas, 
gulls, southern ocean terns etc. Paul Scofield had stepped in to take a few 
species off Danny and I as were behind schedule (as usual).  I begrudgingly 
handed Gull-billed to Paul. I gave him my data and historical literature 
(mostly breeding records for Asia) and tried my best to influence him 
completely, but naturally he drew his own conclusions. I guess he saw my point 
but couldn't confirm it. Danny was working on other species at the time, but 
developed an interest a few years later when banding significant numbers in 
Broome. His findings were therefore based on an entirely different set of 
data. I can't remember why he stuck with affinis either, but I seem to 
recall classifying it as "plausible but not compelling".
 This compares with my own conclusion of nilotica which might also be  
"plausible but not compelling". As you say, we are all agreed they are not 

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

Many thanks to David and Denise for enlightenment. I had already gleaned from 
hanzab that there had been the odd earlier NT record, but found it odd that 
birders don't seem to report them nowadays. Clearly they ARE there, and I 
wasn't reading the right literature. And David, back in 1996 when hanzab V3 was 
published, there was doubt even then about it being affinis, or the nominate 
nilotica. It seems that in recent times the term affinis has become more widely 
accepted. Can't recall on what basis, but I guess in the coming years we will 
learn more. This is really tricky stuff. From memory, I think Danny Rogers' 
paper favoured affinis.

The point is that they certainly aren't macrotarsa, and thanks for taking the 
time to communicate.



Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S    152° 56' 00"E

On 18/03/2011 1:09 PM, Denise Goodfellow wrote:
> Hi David and Jill
> In Annotated Birds of the Top End (Thompson and Goodfellow, 1990), several
> sightings of S.n. addenda (as we knew it) are reported from Leanyer Sewage
> Ponds, Fogg Dam and Kakadu by John McKean and others.  These birds visit
> Darwin during the Wet Season.
> A specimen from the sewage ponds was found in December 1989, and I assume
> this in the the NT Museum collection, if anyone is interested.


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