White-fronted Terns in Caloundra, Qld

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: White-fronted Terns in Caloundra, Qld
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 09:06:16 +1000
I have been chastised by more than one fellow birder for not posting this
sighting on birding-aus. Caloundra is about 85km north of Brisbane, Qld, at
the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, and at the northern end of the
Pumicestone Passage, an estuary which lies between Bribie Island and the

Don Cameron, NPWS ranger on Bribie Island, first saw the WF Terns on
Thursday, 7th January. I was out with him the following day (8-1-99) doing
a low tide wader count, and talked him into driving up the beach on Bribie
later so I could check it out, too. I agreed with his identification. He
had seen WF Terns before, but I had not. I had checked the field guides
carefully before I went out that day.And I checked HANZAB that night, just
to be certain.

I saw 12 - 15 individuals, all in breeding plumage. I would not have
expected them to be present at this time of year, when they should be at
home in NZ looking after the new babies.

The usual terns present were: Crested, Little, Common, Gull-billed,
Caspian. These other terns stood out as different because:

1. Black beaks with strong band of white across the top of the beak before
the start of the well-defined black cap.
2. Very pale birds with only a hint of dark at the very outer primaries (in
3. Behaviour: more than once I watched as an individual dipped to the
surface, flew above the surface, dipped the head in the water, tucked the
beak close against the breast, and continued in this position briefly,
before bringing the head forward again. I have watched terns feeding on
countless occasions at Caloundra, but have never actually seen this feeding
behaviour - like skimming. I take that it was feeding, althought I saw
nothing caught.
4. This group of terns flew as a separate group, and did not, in the time I
was observing, join the thousands of other terns loafing on the sandbanks
close by. In fact I didn't see these terns land at all.

Don wasn't with me whilst I was observing these birds. He was off chasing
kids who were throwing crackers at roosting birds. He didn't catch them.

I wonder if anyone else noticed these birds?

Caloundra is a place frequented by masses of tourists, but not many
birders. Jill Chamberlain goes there once a month to conduct QWSG wader
counts, but, apart from that, no one resident is keeping an eye on what
comes and goes. What I am saying is that although this might seem to be an
unusual sighting, who's to say they haven't been there before (in summer),
and not been noticed? I conducted frequent counts of the area for three
years until the end of 1992, but since then, records are opportunisitic
rather than comprehensive. In the early 90s I never identified a WF Tern,
but in those days I was learning on the job.



Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld

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