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10

Whiskered Tern

(Chlidonias hybridus)
Alternate name(s): "Marsh Tern"
Size: 24-28 cm; wing span: 57-63 cm
Weight: 80 g (average)

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 Whiskered Tern at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "javanicus"

ADULT

BREEDING

Whiskered Terns in breeding plumage resting on the shore of an ephemeral lake
[Goran Lake, NSW, February 2012]

Whiskered Tern with its wings stretched
[Goran Lake, NSW, February 2012]

Whiskered Terns at an irrigation farm dam near Moree, NSW (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Frontal view of a Whiskered Tern in breeding plumage hovering just before dipping towards the surface of a fresh water lake; note the dark grey underparts and black cap characteristic of the bird's breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Near-frontal view of a Whiskered Tern in breeding plumage hovering (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Marlgu Billabong, Wyndham, WA, January 2016]

Lateral view of a Whiskered Tern in flight, with the wings up
[Burren Junction Bore Bath, NSW, December 2015]

Here a view of the Whiskered Tern's upperwings
[Goran Lake, NSW, February 2012]

Whiskered Tern seen gaining height after a dip
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

NON-BREEDING

Dorsal view of a Whiskered Tern in non-breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Dorsal view of a soaring Whiskered Tern in non-breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Adult Whiskered Tern in non-breeding plumage (right), with a juvenile; note the adult bird's reddish legs
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Adult Whiskered Tern in non-breeding plumage (centre) with two juveniles
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Here the same three Whiskered Terns as shown above, now hovering in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Juvenile Whiskered Tern stretching its wings (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Juvenile Whiskered Tern begging for food (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Close-up lateral view of an immature Whiskered Tern with its wings angled, just before going into a dive
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Lateral view of a juvenile Whiskered Tern soaring
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Distant lateral view of a fledgling Whiskered Tern in flight (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Whiskered Tern chick resting in reeds (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Whiskered Tern feeding a chick "on the wing" (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Whiskered Tern feeding a chick (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Two Whiskered Tern chicks begging to be fed (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Dorsal view of a Whiskered Tern chick (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Whiskered Tern chick begging to be fed (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Lake Omeo, Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, February 2017]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: 18 - 20 days Fledging age: ca. 21(?) days

The breeding season depends on geographic latitude and on weather conditions. Given the right circumstances, e.g. after substantial inland rainfall, Whiskered Terns can, in principle, breed at any time of the year. In the tropical North the main breeding season is around February-April.

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

Nest

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

Type: Basket Material: Grass stems, dry aquatic plants Height above ground: N/A

Whiskered Tern nest with 3 eggs inside (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Near Baradine, NSW, 1980ies]

Eggs

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

Size: 37 x 27 mm Colour: Off-white, with dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

The pattern and density of speckles can vary significantly.

Closer look at 3 Whiskered Tern eggs (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Near Baradine, NSW, 1980ies]

Behaviour

Whiskered Terns can congregate into substantial flocks of up to several hundred birds.

Flock of Whiskered Terns resting on the shore of an ephemeral lake; click on image to see the entire flock
[Goran Lake, NSW, December 2012]

Flock of Whiskered Terns above an irrigation dam (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)
[Near Moree, NSW, October 2010]

Food, Diet

Like all terns, Whiskered Terns feed on fish, which they catch with their bills just under the surface of inland waters in a steep high-speed dive from considerable height. Seen by us to also take large insects, such as e.g. dragonflies.

Whiskered Tern that has just caught a dragonfly; the hunting technique used to catch the insect was identical to that employed for catching fish

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.

whstern_20151219.mp3 javanicus
(NW NSW)
? (hunting) © MD
whstern_20151219_2.mp3 javanicus
(NW NSW)
? (hunting) © 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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