Crested Tern

A Crestern Tern on the beach

Scientific Name: Sterna bergii

Size: up to 49 cm in length

What does it look like?

The Crested Tern is the second largest of the terns found in Australia. It is also one of the most commonly seen. Its pale yellow bill, scruffy black crest, grey wings and back and white neck and underparts. Although it is often observed on its own, the Crested Tern often forms mixed flocks with other terns or gulls. Most common calls are a raspy “kirrick” or “krrow”.

The Lesser Crested Tern, S. bengalensis, with which it may be confused, is slightly smaller and has a bright orange bill when breeding. This latter species, is also absent from Australia’s south. The largest of the terns is the Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia. This measures 50 to 55 cm, and has a huge red bill.


Where is it found?

Occurs along coastal areas throughout Australia and Tasmania. They are seldom seen on inland waterways, preferring islands, beaches, lakes and inlets. They are widespread from the south coast of Africa, north to Asia and east of Polynesia.


What are its habitats & habits?

Crested Terns form small to large flocks, often with other terns and gulls. Crested Terns feed mainly on fish, which are caught by plunging into the water in a typical tern manner.

Crested Terns will readily mix with other terns and gulls in large, noisy colonies on offshore islands. Breeding takes place between October and December each year. The eggs, placed in a shallow scrape in the ground, are incubated by both sexes, and both care for the young.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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