Tern ID help please!

Subject: Tern ID help please!
From: "Damien Farine" <>
Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2005 20:51:37 +1100
Hi Guys,
You must all think I am shocking bird ID-ing, but living in a new area sorta throws you off a bit (well it has me!)

ANYWAYS... as I was catching a few waves and a few rays on Wollongong City Beach this afternoon.. a small tern went huffing and puffing past me, crash-landing on the beach a few metres away. This tern was obviously un-well, as it was sitting on its 'bum' (not that birds have much of a booty) with its two legs out in front it it. Even though it never made it unto it's feet, it seemed to have much trouble balancing.

So I made my first valiant attempt at an animal rescue.. sitting about 1m away from the tern for about 10 minutes hoping it would relax and stop being flighty. Unfortunately, several walkers (and their beloved pooches) were approaching so I had to make my move. The tern wasn't going to have a bar of it and flew out to see (well, it was attempting flight, but very un-tern-like and most ungraceful).

My heart broken, I watched it disappear, and then believe I might have seen it heading back into shore all the way up the beach (it was trying to fly into a north-easterly wind). I decided that it was worth the tramp, but my search for small terns on the beach only un-veiled more and more rubbish as I approached the main swimming area.

I was sure, all along, that I was chasing a little tern. However I had a niggling doubt, and when I got back to check my collection of books, I wasn't convinced.

Here is what I saw:

Bill - long, straight and definitely all black

Head - Quite like the little tern in non-breeding plumage, but didn't really appear to have any 'freckling' like shown in guides.

Feet - Dark red. Quite darker than Silver Gull feet (which were wandering about around me aimlessly).

Plumage - Predominantly white. In fact it had very little gray or dark areas.

Size - I thought it could be ever-so slightly bigger than a little tern, however it has been about a year since i have seen one (yeah I know, they live just around the corner from where I work), and this poor bird never made it to his feet. He seemed to fit quite cosily in people's footsteps however.

Thanks for your help guys! Who knows what this crazy weather might've brought along?

Actually, speaking of that, I should also mention that there are quite a few wedge-tailed shearwaters beach-washed at the moment.. One of which was being consumed by a most curious of little crittery bugs.


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