Whiskered Tern behaviour

To: "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: Whiskered Tern behaviour
From: "Terry Pacey" <>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 07:16:51 +1000
It is known that Whiskered Terns will hawk for insects over grasslands but
there is a mystery about their behaviour which has been raised for other
species on Birding-aus previously and so I do not expect a discussion to

In 1992 (I think - my notes are not at hand) I was living at Jandowae in
Southern Queensland.  It had been dry for an exceptionally long period of
time and mid afternoon a storm struck.  There was very heavy rain (about 50
mm in 30 minutes or so and then the storm moved on.  As the air had cooled
and everything had that fresh look and smell, I headed for the town dam for
some birding.

The farmlands around the dam were covered with water and after about ten
minutes (thirty minutes after the storm had passed) the whole area was
covered with Whiskered Terns hawking all over the area.  This was the only
time Whiskered Terns had been seen in the area in the six years I lived
there.  None of the farmers spoken to had seen them before.  Some of these
farmers had lived in the same homes for over 60 years.

Half an hour of feeding and they were gone, never to be seen again.  The
only other Whiskered Terns I saw while I was living in Jandowae were found
over 70 kilometres away.

Rhetorical questions:  Where did they come from?  If they followed the storm
they would have had to come a LONG way.  Where did they go?  Why only this
one storm?

Terry Pacey
27°57'02"S  153°24'12"E
Gold Coast
SE Qld

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