To: "Terry Pacey" <>, birding aus <>
Subject: Terns
From: Brent Stephenson <>
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 12:10:10 +1300
Hi Terry/Birding-ausers,

   2.  How can these "commic" terns be identified without being in the hand
(and maybe even then)?

In my experience, which is reasonably limited in NZ, but have seen both common and arctic in the UK, and both with Antarctic in South Africa, the two are seperable in the field. However, it is often the jizz and shape of the bird which gives it away. When standing Arctics have VERY short legs, so it looks like they are almost resting on the ground. Also the breast and belly of Arctics are usually very pronounced and give the bird a very rounded appearance at the front. If you were to sit them on their tail, they would have an 'ice-cream cone' shape (without the head - I am not suggesting you try this!). They are difficult though..

In New Zealand, where there are few confirmed records of common tern, and even fewer of Arctic, the main problem is seperating common from the common white-fronted tern. Usually common terns start to 'tern' up around Dec/Jan when the white-fronteds are moulting out of their breeding plumage. Several of us over here in NZ feel it shouldn't be 'commic' tern but 'common/white-fronted tern'.

Hope this helps,

Brent Stephenson

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