What type of Bird am I?
These photographs were taken on the barge ride between River Heads (the mainland) and K’Gari (Fraser Island) in Queensland, Australia. This barge ride take about an hour.
Fraser Island vehicle barges and passenger ferry services run daily from River Heads, south of Hervey Bay to World Heritage-listed K’Gari (Fraser Island).
The two pieced tail – these are called ‘tail streamers’
It is difficult to identify the species of tern without being able to see the back view or all of their features like leg colour. These bird were flying the entire time I was observing them.
Terns that are are regularly recorded in this locality where these birds were sighted include the Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Roseate Tern, White-fronted tern and Black-naped Tern.
However the birds we sighted had an orange/yellow bill and all the previously listed species have a black bill.
The Fairy Tern is not usually found in Wide Bay Queensland. This bird is distinguished from similar birds by its rounded belly, orange yellow bill, a white forehead in early breeding with the speckled black head marking not reaching the bill. These features match the birds sighted. This species breeds August to January. This specimen was sighted in late July so early breeding markings would be developing at that time
The Lesser-crested Tern is also called the tern of the tropics. It was believed to range north (or above) the Tropic of Capricorn. However it is now accepted in bird field guildes that there habitat extends further south to the area these birds were seen and further south to Brisbane. The features of the Lesser Crested Tern matches the birds seen particularly the speckled crown if the birds were non-breeding. Their head markings differ when breeding. The Lesser-crested Tern breeds September to December in the east and south of its range where there specimens were sighted. In late July Lesser-crested Terns at that location would have non-breeding plumage.
Therefore the identification can only be decided by leg colour.The Fairy tern has yellow legs and the Lesser-crested Tern has black legs. Unfortunately the legs cannot be seen. So I went back to the photos to see if there was a clear leg shot anywhere …..
I cannot wait to visit that area again in the hope of seeing these birds again.