Gull-billed tern

I’ve found out about the mysterious fish bone that I talked about in my last post. Go there for an update.


I’m a lazy birdwatcher, and don’t strive too hard to add to my “life list”. But when a “tick” comes flying along to meet me, I’m happy.

I’d never seen the gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) before, and there were four on the rock platform at Flat Rock on Saturday, mixing with the common terns, which are noticeably larger. This one seems to be in breeding plumage.

Gull-billed tern

You can read about the subspecies in Australia here.

Apparently these terns don’t plunge-dive for fish like you often see other terns doing, but feed on insects while on the fly, and amphibians, small mammals, plus the chicks and eggs of other terns.

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4 Responses to Gull-billed tern

  1. Ken D. says:

    Well spotted Joy! I’m learning more about our wonderful birds all the time but sea-birds are just too hard for me. They all seem to have the same black and white paint job on the same air-frame whose purpose in live is to give ornithologists an ‘advanced’ level. They’re all seagulls to me but, then, i suppose all trees looked the same once too. I’m impressed!

    • Joy Window says:

      Thanks, Ken. Yes, they can be tricky. The waders that migrate give me a hard time – they all look brown with long bills. It’s a bit like learning to identify trees, though, in that you get used to looking for the different characteristics and then looking them up in an ID guide.

  2. Hi Joy, This is one of my favorite birds. Our Gull-
    billed terns are seen over our marshes looking for fiddler crabs. Congrats on the Life bird.

    • Joy Window says:

      Thanks, Lydia! I remember those Georgia marshes – I hadn’t seen anything like them before. I’d always thought of terns as seabirds, but our gull-billed terns have been seen at Birdsville, near the Simpson Desert, almost halfway across Australia.

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