Bird Photography Challenge #35 – Black-Naped Tern

A distinctive and elegant tern, the Black-Naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana) entertained us at Fitzroy Reef with their antics over our dinghy.  We knew we would have to dedicate our #35 Bird Photography Challenge to this graceful but gregarious oceanic bird.

What does it look like?

Black-naped Tern-4With a wing span of 45 to 50 cm, the Black-Naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) is a small and slender tern. It is predominantly white to pale grey, with faint pinkish underparts, but as the name suggests, it has a bold black band from the eyes across the back of the neck. The tail is long and deeply forked.  Bill, legs and feet are black and the eyes are dark brown.

 How does it behave?

The Black-Naped Tern is a  social bird which can often be seen in groups of 5 to 20 pairs.  It is more likely to land where there is a group of terns rather than where there are no terns!  This is a behaviour we observed at Fitzroy Reef, when one landed on our dinghy, attracting more and more companions as time went.  It forages with other species of terns and noddies and feeds solely on fish by shallow plunging and taking prey from the surface of the water.

The nest is a depression in the sand or in gravel pockets on coral banks close to the high tide mark. Because the nest is on the ground, it is liable to destruction by storm tides, or cyclonic weather.  This tern is sensitive to human disturbance when roosting and nesting.  Adults may leave their nests and expose eggs to predation.

Did you know?

The Black-Naped Tern often forages over schools of fish that have been forced to the surface by marine predators, and they steal food from other birds.

Where is it found?

The Black-Naped Tern frequents small rocky cays and sandy offshore islands and reefs in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  It is rarely seen inland.  In Australia it is found in the northern country.  We saw these terns in Queensland at Fitzroy Reef, which is part of the Bunker Group where they breed.

All images in the gallery were taken using a Canon 7Dii and a Canon 100-400 mm lens, hand held.

8 thoughts on “Bird Photography Challenge #35 – Black-Naped Tern

  1. Great pics Chris! They look so sleek in the air. Our resident tern is the crested and we always marvel at how superb they look in the air with their ‘high aspect’ wings, then you see them on the ground, they look ungamely with their disproportionately short legs and ‘chubby’ looking body. Totally paradoxical!?!

    • Hi Elgar – yes it happens with a fee birds with large wingspan. These were very elegant, even on the dinghy, although Wade was not amused by their deposits!

  2. Wonderful shots, Chris, of a beautiful bird. It’s tough to capture feather details when a bird is as bright white as this one, but you did a super job.

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