Confusing tern ID, SEQld

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Confusing tern ID, SEQld
From: jilldening <>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 06:54:04 +1100
Hi All,

You would think that after all the time I spend looking at terns I would
have no trouble with ID of the species I see every week. Yesterday I found
myself struggling, and it took me a while to work out what the problem was.
I voiced my frustration to one of my offsiders, and she replied that she,
too, was surprised by how much trouble she was having.

The problem was with Little Terns and Common Terns, which are easy to
separate from side view, and even more so when they stand side by side next
to each other.

But yesterday the birds were facing directly at us, and I suppose one group
had about 1500 individuals. The problem is that at this time of year both
Littles (the northern population) and Commons are moulting towards breeding
plumage prior to migrating to the northern hemisphere. Their heads are
growing more black feathers. This is particularly evident in the Littles,
which are looking like miniature Commons from the front view. I have to tell
you, I felt really inadequate there for a while, thought I was losing it.

This week just a small number of Littles are showing yellow on the bill
(e.g. 19:546). By next week there should be a sizeable number with yellow


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51'  152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994

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