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Tern: Whiskered Tern

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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francoisd
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Tern: Whiskered Tern

Unread postby francoisd » Fri Sep 28, 2007 8:22 pm

Of the 126 birds listed so far on our trip I must say that the Wiskered Tern we saw count as my highlight as it is the first one I see in Kruger.

Bird was seen on the southern bank of Engelhard dam on 25/09. Travelling on the S46 from Letaba one finds a road that turns out to the left and runs next to the river/dam for about 1km. About half down this road is where we saw the tern.

The tern was flying up- and-down the river picking up foodstuff.

(GPS coordinates of where the car was standing when we saw the tern: -23.837327 S; 31.625716 E)
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Yolandé Oelsen
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Yolandé Oelsen » Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:06 am

Thanks JoelR.

What about this one? I have posted 3 of the same bird, one showing the underwing. Not great photo's :redface:
I was thinking :doh: Whiskered Tern?
Seen at Boskop Dam Nature Reserve,Potch
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Bush Baptist » Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:39 am

Looks like it. Was it a large or small bird? The Caspian looks similar, but is a larger bird.
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:30 pm

Whiskered tern is the right call, Yolandé Oelsen. The bill on a Caspian tern is massive... and they NEVER have dark underparts.
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Yolandé Oelsen » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:32 pm

Please can someone help me with the ID of these 2 terns. They were both seen at Barberspan in January. The first one was in the reserve itself among Grey-headed gulls and Whiskered Terns. When he came in, he was immediately chased aside?

In size, he seems smaller than the Whiskered terns.
(the quality of the photos are very poor though - sorry..)
The bill is thin and black.Legs black. White underneath. White forehead, with black from the eyes and underneath, and mottled grey/black on the crown of the head.
Wing edges seem very dark grey nearly blackish?
Probably a tern in moulting plumage?
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Yolandé Oelsen » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:42 pm

The second tern was at the fishing side of the dam (barberspan) He was on his own too. There were also huge amount of Whiskered tern ex.
In size comparison to them, he is much bigger.
Light grey above, with it seems slighter darker outer wings.
Dark reddish legs. Bill appears dark/black, but base seems lighter.
No white on the forehead. Black starts from bill, over the eye and extends to the nape of the neck - rather broad.
The flight photo's are even worst than the others, but it appears that he might even be light grey underneath and wings seem to have darker edging underneath too.

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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Kooscra » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:20 pm

Very difficult :wall: Here is my try :doh: No 1..Blacknaped Tern/immature :hmz: .No 2 Gullbilled Tern/breeding or Damara Tern :huh: Please help!

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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby deefstes » Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:23 pm

Jeepers! How awesome would that be? Seeing two of southern Africa's rarest terns on one day, on opposite sides of Barberspan nogal :D

Obviously I can't comment on the size as the pictures don't show any of the other birds around but both of these look like fairly stock standard Whiskered Terns to me.

The first one looks like a non-breeding adult but I suspect it's probably a juvenile bird having just reached adult plumage, but not old enough to start breeding yet. The mantle isn't really visible so it's hard to age the bird.

I will be honest that the dark frame around the wings is a bit unsettling for Whiskered but the head and facial pattern is typical for Whiskered, not White-winged.

The second bird is in breeding plumage. The underparts are not really visible in the pictures but on the first and the last picture you can see some of the greyish underparts. I guess the dark bill might have been a bit confusing but it's not unusual for birds to have very dark bills with only a hint of red.
Here's a comparative example

If you do find a Gull-billed and Black-naped combo at Barberspan (or anywhere) though, please let me know. I'm there like a bear!
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Kooscra » Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:24 am

deefstes,you are probably right :clap: As you said...very difficult on pics alone to be sure :wall: Just thought I'd give every birder a :huh: because there are some simmilarities to the ones I mentioned :roll:

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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby deefstes » Sun Jan 24, 2010 12:05 pm

Kooscra wrote:deefstes,you are probably right :clap: As you said...very difficult on pics alone to be sure :wall: Just thought I'd give every birder a :huh: because there are some simmilarities to the ones I mentioned :roll:

Hehe. The problem with terns are that there are similarities between any of them. They're actually a very difficult group to get a handle on.

Perhaps another comment or two on these birds and the ones you mentioned might be useful:

1. Marsh Terns:
There is a small group of terns known as the marsh terns or "Chlidonias" terns (Chlidonias being the genus name of the group). These terns are slightly different from the sea terns (Sterna) in that they are generally smaller, have very slight bills, broader wings, less forked tails and fairly noticeable different flight patterns and feeding habits. They are also, generally speaking, the only terns one would expect to find at inland localities (although Caspian Tern is seen at large inland water bodies fairly regularly and Gull-billed Tern, although being a rare vagrant is also seen on inland water bodies).

There are only three species of marsh tern, all of which occur in southern Africa. Those are the White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern and Black Tern. The first two are fairly common throughout most of South Africa while the latter is rather uncommon. When you see a tern on an inland water body your first consideration should be either White-winged or Whiskered. They're not too difficult to tell apart but in non-breeding and juvenile plumage there can be some confusion.

I should perhaps just mention that, recently (2005) the Black-fronted Tern (Chlidonias albostriatus) has been classified as a Chlidonias where it was always considered Sterna so the Chlidonias group really has four members, not three. It's a New Zealand species though and not something we need to concern ourselves with too much. There is also talk that the Black-bellied Tern (Sterna acuticauda) and the White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa) might also be reclassified as Chlidonias. The latter is an extremely rare vagrant to southern Africa.

2. Black-naped Tern:
Speaking of extremely rare vagrants, the Black-naped Tern has been recorded in South Africa only 9 times and each time on the KZN coast, never inland. It differs from Yolande's bird in a number of ways but most noticeably by having a very clean and neat black line through the eyes meeting on the nape, none of that speckling on the forehead, being overall a very pale bird with only a thin black leading edge to the wings.
Here is a nice picture of some online.
Of course, I know this by having read up on the bird, not ever having seen one.

3. Gull-billed Tern:
About two years ago, if I remember correctly, there were a number of Gull-billed Tern sightings but it is still considered a rare vagrant. Like I said, they are also seen at inland water bodies but they'd differ from Yolande's second bird in having a much heavier (Gull-like) bill. Also, they have black legs, not red, but then Yolande's pictures doesn't really show much colour in the legs or the bill.
Here's a picture of one showing the heavy bill nicely.
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Yolandé Oelsen
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Yolandé Oelsen » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:58 pm

So they're both Whiskered. Thanks Deefstes and for the explanations and photo's too.
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Pumbaa » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:24 pm

Need another help here with the ID - Saw this one at Ximangwaneni in Kruger on 19.0212 - Could it be an Antartic tern???

Sorry about the bad quality but this was the best shot we got as it was raining

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Thanks for your help :gflower:

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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Mutorashanga » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:02 pm

Hi Pumbaa,
Looking at the grey belly, white vent and large red bill your Antactic Tern is a Whiskered Tern coming into full breeding plumage. The Antarctic tern is a sea bird, is longer than the other species and is only found along the south coasts of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. The Whiskered Tern is a fresh water tern and is probably quite common in the Kruger where there are large areas of water. I hope that this helps.
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby Pumbaa » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:42 am

Thanks Mutorashanga,

that helped for sure perfectly although I must say that I never saw a Whiskered tern ever before in Kruger :dance:

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Re: Tern: Whiskered Tern

Unread postby LaeveldLeeu » Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:49 am

Apparently one was seen at Leeupan on 23 Okt 2012. Any photos?


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