Re: Little Terns.

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Re: Little Terns.
From: "Jon Wren" <>
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 16:26:17 +1000
Gooday Jill and others,
In response to your email of the 6 Oct 2000 I have managed to dig up the
following info.
Jill wrote
>As far as I know, you have a different population of Little Terns up your
way.  As I understand it, there are three populations of sterna albifrons in
>South-East Australian breeding population which is threatened, and which
breeds SEAustralia in the Australian summer.
>Northern hemisphere population which breeds in the northern hemisphere
June/July and spends the northern winter in Australia (our summer).

HANZAB Vol3 pg 713 states
"Three separate populations occur in Aust.: (1) East Aust. population:
breeding spring-summer in E and SE, in Tas., Vic., NSW and Qld., N to about
Elliot River (20 00S), where may overlap with n. Aust. population.
(2) N. Aust. population: poorly known but breed Gulf of Carpentaria and east
coastal C. York Pen. in austral autumn and winter.
(3) Asian population: non-breeding migrants from Asia, breeding in austral
autumn and winter (as n Aust. populations), migrating to Aust. and NZ in
spring and leaving late summer to autumn.

The township of Bowen is situated on latitude
20 00S the mouth of the Elliot River is (19 53S) where breeding has been
noted during June and Dec. (Ey 1990 Aust. Bird Watcher 13; 201).
I believe the 9 Little Terns I observed in breeding plumage on the19
September, 2000 at the Bowen Saltworks would be those birds described as
East Australian population. there is a possibility that they may be Northern
Hemisphere birds but Little Terns still breed at the mouth of the Elliot
River, where little disturbance occurs on a large sandbank at the mouth. I
recall a study was conducted quite a numbers of years ago into the breeding/
biology of this species but never actually became aware of the results. I
think the Eliza Hall Institute funded or undertook the study.

Little Terns are by no means common all year round at Bowen and actually the
9 birds sighted would be one of the largest groups observed over recent
years. My records are contained in hand written diaries, if only I could
find the time to transfer it all to my Birdinfo program, life would of
course be a lot simpler for me to access the info.
I'm sorry to say I have never witnessed Little Terns in the 1000's, but
believe it must be quite a splendid sight.
Thanks for that bit of homework Jill.
Jon Wren

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