White-fronted Tern

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Habitat: Coastal

The White-fronted Tern occurs in coastal seas and exposed rocky costs. They can be found also on sandy beaches of sheltered coasts such as bays, harbours, estuaries and lagoons (this is less frequent in Australia than New Zealand).

Most White-fronted Terns breed in New Zealand and then disperse after the breeding season (October to February), with some migrating to Australia for the winter. The movements of the terns that breed in Tasmania are not known. When disturbed, they sound a ‘rasping yawn’ alarm call to warn of threats and predators.

White-fronted Terns forage mostly on fish on, or just below, the surface of the water, preferring turbulent water in or just beyond the surf zone, or near rocks and reefs. They dive from 6-10 m above the surface and can submerge to about 50 cm.

White-fronted Terns build their nests in colonies that may contain several hundred or thousand breeding pairs, and frequently in association with other species. Colonies can be on islets, reefs, cliffs, sand dunes and beaches or shingle bars. The nest is usually a scrape in the sand or soil, with no nesting material, so one or two eggs are laid directly on the surface. Both sexes incubate and all the sitting birds will face the same direction – into the wind. It is thought that White-fronted Terns mate for several years and possibly even for life.