Large tern flocks off Sunshine Coast, Qld

To: "Mr Peter Kyne" <>, <>
Subject: Large tern flocks off Sunshine Coast, Qld
From: "Chris Corben" <>
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 12:26:03 +1000
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?

A buildup of White-winged Black Terns in breeding plumage along the ocean
coasts in April is a regular, annual event in southern Qld. The species is
quite uncommon offshore during the rest of the summer, though the odd one
can be seen, typically feeding in mixed flocks with Common and other Terns.
Whiskered Terns are very rare offshore at any time.

While WWBTs could be found anywhere in Australia, they are much more common along the coast where they mainly inhabit saltwater estuaries. They can be found with Whiskered Terns on freshwater, but the bulk of them are in places
like southern Moreton Bay. But in the autumn, they concentrate along the
ocean coast, and become largely offshore feeders. This appears to be a
buildup to the northward migration, which is essentially complete. I don't
recall ever seeing a WWBT in winter. It is certainly a spectacle seeing
hundreds of these stunning black and white terns hunting together, but it
won't last long before they have all gone north.

Interestingly, the numbers of Common Terns also build up along ocean coasts
at this time of year. I have seen this phenomenon from Victoria to
Queensland. Where do they come from? Maybe it is likewise a movement out
from the estuaries to the ocean, but there don't seem to be that many
estuaries with large numbers of Common Terns.

Cheers, Chris.

Chris Corben


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