Large tern flocks off Sunshine Coast, Qld

Subject: Large tern flocks off Sunshine Coast, Qld
From: Mr Peter Kyne <>
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2006 21:25:22 +1000
Late this afternoon (Saturday 15th April) Plaxy Barratt and I observed 
very large mixed flocks of terns feeding off Point Perry, Coolum on 
the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. The birds were several hundred metres 
out to sea and following the movements of what appeared to be large 
baitfish schools which where also being predated upon by scombrid 
fishes (and likely other things we couldn't see).

We were scopeless and had only our binoculars to rely on. However, 
amongst the Crested, Common and Little Tern, we found what appeared to 
be good numbers of White-winged Black Tern. The birds were in full 
breeding plumage, showing a black body, contrasting light and dark 
wings and a white rump and tail. At all times they remained close to 
the water surface (relative to the other species). The complete black 
body ruled out Whiskered Tern and this and the white rump and tail 
(amongst other things) ruled out the dark terns and noddies.

This is a species that both of us have little experience with. We note 
that the field guides include coastal waters for the species' habitat, 
but for us this is the first time we have seen it outside of inland 
waters, and in Australia in breeding colours. 

Is this species observed regularly in coastal waters? Given that the 
birds are in breeding plumage and the time of year, are they likley on 
migration? Have other birdos observed these large mixed tern flocks 
which are around the Sunshine coast at the moment? Are they occuring 
elsewhere also?

If anyone is in the area, the flocks provide quite a spectacle worthy 
of a viewing (take your scope so you don't find yourself scopeless!)

Cheers, Pete and Plax

P.S. As far as we could make out there were no Shearwaters or Jaegers 
within the flocks.

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