birding-aus Little Terns

To: Birding-aus <>, "Driscoll, Peter":;
Subject: birding-aus Little Terns
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 08:46:31 +1100

Yes, I believe Caloundra is indeed a very important site for terns. (See an
article - Pumicestone Passage - I wrote for the Spring issue of Australian

I have had flocks of up to 12,000 Crested terns, between 2-3000 Common
terns and up to 10,000 Little Terns (LITE) over the years in Caloundra.
White-winged Black Terns (WWBT) have been seen during spring migration, but
not by me. I have, however, seen them here every autumn, in numbers (from
memory) up to 2-300. WWBTs hang around here for a few weeks, during which
time they move into breeding plumage, before heading for the northern

I am kicking myself for not quantifying the proportions of LITE in breeding
plumage, when I was doing intensive counts during the early 90s. Both
plumages were present, but at the time I did not realise the significance
of the situation (slow learner!). However, I am back on the job now. It is
a struggle to see the plumages with a telescope from the shoreline. Wind
and heat create visual distortion. A boat is necessary, but this is not a

Although there are records of LITE breeding in the region about 30 years
ago, I have not heard of any more recent breeding.

I am biting my fingernails at present, awaiting the outcome of the
Coastcare grants in December. I have an application in to do a one-year
project on the Caloundra sandbanks to determine the conservation value of
the sandbanks for mainly terns and but also waders. Waders have been
assessed in detail in the past. Because you need a scope to view the birds
from the shoreline, most people, both resident and visitor, are unaware of
the huge numbers of terns attracted to Caloundra. The project proposes to
involve community groups, the local university, EPA and council. I want to
be able to wave a piece of paper under the noses of the environmental
planners - a piece of paper which "officially" evaluates the area for
future planning.

By the way, have you ever seen WWBTs, when they gather on overhead wires?
They huddle up together just like woodswallows. I could hardly believe what
I was seeing the first time several years ago. At the Ewan Maddock Dam at
Landsborough the wires hang above the water, and the WWBTs do their fishing
from the wires.



Edwin Vella wrote:
>Thats amazing Jill. Would this be the most importat area for Little Terns on
any Australian coast? Would be interested to know what proportion were in
breeding plumage (Australian breeders) and non-breeding (visitors from
Asia)? Are there usually many White-winged Black Terns also present?

Jill Dening wrote:
> The Little Terns are back in strength.
> Jill Chamberlain and Barbara Dickson reported an estimated 5000 Little
> Terns present on the sandbanks at Caloundra (SEQ) this morning. This is
> only half of the maximum number I have observed in the past, but is still
> sizeable count.

Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld

26º 51'         152º 56'

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