Little Tern behaviour

To: "'David Stowe'" <>, "'birding-aus aus'" <>
Subject: Little Tern behaviour
From: "Phil Straw" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2007 12:21:51 +1100

The behaviour described is typical and chicks in seabird colonies. Playing
dead or running when attacked by a neighbouring adult are the two options
for a chick. Deaths in big colonies sometimes happens but is fairly rare.
Chicks disturbed by people or predators approaching the colony may cause the
chicks to run across other nest territories resulting in the chick being
attacked by other terns or the chick may not be able to get back to its own

Phil Straw
Consultant Avian and Wetlands Ecologist
PO Box 2006
Rockdale Delivery Centre

Tel: 61 2 95977765
Mob: 0411 249 075

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of David Stowe
Sent: Tuesday, 16 January 2007 10:57 PM
To: birding-aus aus
Subject: Little Tern behaviour

This evening after work went down to see the Little Terns at Penrhyn  
Rd (Sydney).
Great seeing still a good number of chicks and frantically feeding  
I did notice an interesting behaviour though -
One of the chicks ran out of the messy softer sand where the nests  
are and onto the harder "open" sand.
I momentarily lost it in the scope then found it again a few seconds  
When i found it, the chick was laying face down in the sand looking  
like it was dead. At first i wondered if i had found a different chick.
An adult was pecking at it and standing next to it. It pecked at its  
neck region in a manner that looked quite harsh to my untrained eye.
This went on for at least 30 seconds and i thought that the chick was  
definitely dead as it made absolutely no movement and was limp when  
the adult pecked at it.
Then all of a sudden the chick got up and ran back towards the  
nesting area of softer sand! The adult gave it a bit of a chase and  
another peck then flew off!

Would this perhaps be the parent's way of teaching the chick to stay  
in the "safety" of better cover??
  Was it not the parent but another adult making  a more aggressive  

I'd love to hear opinions or better still -  answers!

Also as hard as i tried i couldn't see the Fairy Tern.  Is it still  

New NPWS fence is great too.

Other birds were:
Bar-tailed Godwits
Silver Gulls (Little Terns were giving them curry when they ventured  
too close to the breeding area!)
Sharp-tailed Sandpipers
Red-necked Stints
Common terns
Little black cormorant

David Stowe

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