HIGH DENSITY LIVING: A crested tern breeding colony. Photo: Contributed
HIGH DENSITY LIVING: A crested tern breeding colony. Photo: Contributed

The secret life of the crested tern

The Crested Tern is a common bird along our coastal areas and is one of several species in the tern family.

Most terns have a black cap on the head but the Crested Tern also has a crest of black feathers that can blow around on a windy day giving it the look of a bad hair day.

The body is white with grey wings and the long pointed bill is yellow.

It feeds on small fish that are caught by diving into the sea when the fish are swimming near the surface.

The bird will fly into the wind just above the wave tops looking for an opportunity and then plunge in to catch its meal.

They breed in colonies on small offshore islands where their nests are so densely packed together that adjacent owners can touch each other's bills.

They have interesting courtship rituals where they put on impressive aerial displays of diving, climbing and zig zaging in perfect close formation.

As they do this, they make loud calls.

On the ground, the male and female birds will dance.

They circle around each other with their head crests raised and their wings held out away from the body and dropped downwards.

After mating the female will usually lay one egg but sometimes two in a shallow scrape in the sand or on rocks.

Both parents incubate the eggs in shifts of up to four hours and have a ritual display when changing over.

About three days after hatching the chick is led away from the nest where a creche is formed with other chicks.

Parents will feed the chicks well after they have fledged and teach them the fishing techniques they will need to survive independently.

Heron Island is one of the offshore islands where the Crested Tern is known to breed.

 

Allan Briggs is the Secretary of BirdLife Capricornia. Contact him with your bird questions at abriggs@irock.com.au



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