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10

Greater Crested Tern

(Thalasseus bergii)
Alternate name(s): "Greater Crested Tern", "Swift Tern"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "cristata": "kaldjikang" (WA)

Size: 44-48 cm; wing span 0.95-1.05 m (race "cristatus")
Weight: 275-370 g

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Crested Tern at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "cristatus"

ADULT

BREEDING

Lateral view of a Greater Crested Tern in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Kellenberg)
[Point Plomer, Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, February 2009]

Another lateral view of a Greater Crested Tern in breeding plumage
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a Greater Crested Tern in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Margaret River, WA, March 2015]

Dorsal view of a Greater Crested Tern still in breeding plumage (in the background a bird moulting into non-breeding plumage)
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Colony of Greater Crested Terns on the shoreline of a coral atoll (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2016]

Frontal view of a Greater Crested Tern in breeding plumage in flight
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2016]

Greater Crested Tern in breeding plumage in flight
[Point Plomer, Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Greater Crested Tern in near-breeding plumage banking in flight
[Iluka Bluff, Bundjalung NP, NSW, May 2014]

NON-BREEDING

Greater Crested Tern moulting into non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Kellenberg)
[Point Plomer, Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, February 2009]

Close-up lateral portrait of a Greater Crested Tern in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Penguin Island, near Rockingham, WA, March 2016]

Greater Crested Terns in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Kellenberg)
[Point Plomer, Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, February 2009]

These two birds in non-breeding plumage are also showing off their catch
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Lateral view of a Greater Crested Tern in non-breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Kellenberg)
[Point Plomer, Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, February 2009]

Dorsal view of a Greater Crested Tern in transitional plumage
[Iluka Bluff, Bundjalung NP, NSW, May 2014]

Lateral view of a Greater Crested Tern that has been ringed; next to it a resting Silver Gull
[Myall Lakes NP, NSW, June 2009]

Greater Crested Terns and Silver Gulls are often seen to stay close to each other resting on beaches
[Hat Head NP, NSW, January 2011]

Greater Crested Terns and Silver Gull are often seen to stay close to each other resting on beaches
[Hat Head NP, NSW, January 2011]

Near-lateral view of a Greater Crested Tern in non-breeding plumage in flight (photo courtesy of B. Kinross)
[Beachmere, QLD, July 2012]

Greater Crested Tern with its prey in flight
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, January 2011]

Here a closer look at a Greater Crested Tern with its prey in flight
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

This lateral view of a bird in flight, deliberately left dark, shows the "pointy" jizz of a Greater Crested Tern
[Iluka Bluff, Bundjalung NP, NSW, May 2014]

Greater Crested Tern in non-breeding plumage taking a bath
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

This photo shows all possible plumages of Greater Crested Terns: juvenile (left), transitional (centre), non-breeding (right centre) and breeding (right; slightly out of focus)
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Frontal view of a juvenile Greater Crested Tern
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Lateral view of a juvenile Greater Crested Tern
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

The same juvenile Greater Crested Tern as shown above, now begging for food
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Juvenile Greater Crested Tern stretching a wing
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a juvenile Greater Crested Tern
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Adult Greater Crested Tern with a young precocial chick (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2006]

Race "velox"

Greater Crested Terns, race "velox", were photographed by us in Oman.

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Dec Eggs: 1 Incubation period: 14 days Fledging age: ca. 15 days

The breeding season listed above applied to the southern breeding regions of Greater Crested Terns. In the tropical North they breed mostly from about January to June. In principle, Greater Crested Terns can breed any time of the year. Sometimes they have a clutch of 2. Nests are usually on sand amongst some kind of low vegetation. Greater Crested Terns are colonial nesters, with up to thousands of nests densely packed on small islands.

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Scrape Material: Sand Height above ground: N/A

View of a Greater Crested Tern nesting colony; note how the nests are located amongst low vegetation (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2006]

Nesting colony of Greater Crested Terns (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2016]

Three Greater Crested Tern nests, each with a single egg in it, all close to plants (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2006]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 61 x 42 mm Colour: White, with dark-brown streaks/speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Close-up view of a Greater Crested Tern nest with a single egg in it (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2006]

Food, Diet

Like all terns, Greater Crested Terns feed on fish and crayfish, which they catch with their bills just under the water surface in a steep high-speed dive from considerable height.

Here's a fish that didn't get away - envious onlookers are moving in (photo courtesy of C. Kellenberg)
[Point Plomer, Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, February 2009]

Greater Crested Tern that has caught a prawn (photo courtesy of I. Duncan)
[South West Rocks, NSW, September 2011]

Adult Greater Crested Tern bringing a fish for a juvenile (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lady Elliot Island, near Agnes Water, QLD, January 2016]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

We will try to replace these noisy recordings with better ones as soon as possible.

crstern_20160921_2.mp3 cristatus
(NE NSW)
Contact calls © MD
crstern_20160921_3.mp3 cristatus
(NE NSW)
Contact calls © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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