ID confirmation requested, Terns At Hasites Swamp NQ

To: Alan Gillanders <>
Subject: ID confirmation requested, Terns At Hasites Swamp NQ
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2008 13:31:59 +1000
Hi Alan,

They certainly look to me like Common Terns (COTE). What a superb set of photos. I wish I could take pics like that. I am learning, but I have a long way to go. I regard myself as a student of this tern subject rather than a person who knows it all, so if anyone has anything to contradict me or help me, please do so.

One thing which knocks out the possibility of Whiskered Tern (WHTE) is the greater length of the tail. As one of the marsh tern species, the WHTE has a short, stubby tail, unlike the COTE, which has quite long tail feathers by comparison. I think of the likeness between the tails of our martins and swallows for a similar comparison.

I am only experienced with a small range of terns, so the possibility that they are something rare is not something I could judge. However, the terns in Jun's pics have the classic COTE "smile". I have noticed in COTE that the black indentation at the base of the bill where the upper and lower mandibles meet is deeper than other terns, and I call it its "smile". It's one of the characteristics I look for when calling Littles and Commons from each other
in non-breeding plumage with no scale available.

The plumage fits perfectly with the COTE we are seeing in SEQld at the moment. The adult birds are coming out of breeding plumage. Some have new dark carpal bars, some still have the old pale lesser coverts. Many still have breeding caps, though they are losing them fast. They are replacing their median coverts right now, as are the birds in Jun's pics. The bleaching of the old shafts of the outer primaries is consistent with what I would expect from terns which breed in our winter in the northern hemisphere. The last ones will drop out after Christmas sometime. The new growth of the inner primaries is also consistent for this time of year. Our local breeding terns should all have a smart set of new primaries as they are coming into breeding condition, if not already there.

Besides, they just look like COTE. Do you think Jun would let me have a set of the pics for my own non-commercial purposes? I am accumulating a portfolio of six species of tern in each month of the year, and Jun's pics make mine look like trash. I am studying the moult sequence so as to age them in the field.


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

26° 51' 41"S	152° 56' 00"E

Alan Gillanders wrote:
Jun Matsui has posted his tern pictures at this site.
What are they and why is this so would be appreciated.
Alan Gillanders

Alan's Wildlife Tours
2 Mather Road
Yungaburra 4884
Phone 07 4095 3784
Int. + 61 7 4095 3784
Mobile 0408 953 786

Alan's blog

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