|Sighting records for the Fairy Tern|
|Sighting records for the Little Tern|
In Victoria, the two populations overlap and on the Gippsland Lakes in East Gippsland, Little and Fairy Terns, both largely colonial breeders, often breed together though the Fairy Terns start first and are followed a few weeks later by the Little Terns. Single pairs of both Little and Fairy Terns have been found breeding alone however this is not common.
|Photo showing the breeding area. Surveying/counting small terns in breeding colony.|
|Fairy Tern on nest scrape.|
|This Fairy Tern pair nested between the two sticks and hatched two young, one grey and one a ginger colour with both well blotched. I called this pair the “parallel stick chicks”. The grey chick is about to be fed a small fish.|
|A typical 1-2 day old golden or ginger hued chick with a good amount of blotching.|
|This is the blond “yoked stick” chick. At 3-5 days old note the primary flight pin feathers are the first feathers to develop in the fledging process.|
|When a parent signals danger the chicks lie flat and very still on the sand and shell grit until they are given the all clear signal from a parent.|
|A parent brings a fish to the “yoked stick” pair however they showed no interest, indicating they were well fed at that point, so the parent departed with the fish – I assume it ate the fish itself.|
|This pair of chicks are no more than three days old – they were a little wobbly on their feet and there are no pin feathers showing on the wings.|
they seemed to be accepted, but soon the short-lived foster parent rejected
them with a few pecks and they scurried back to their yoked stick refuge.
At 3-5 days old the chicks are quite active. They never seemed to stay in one place very long. They took brief rests and short sleeps usually when digesting recently swallowed fish and at other times made short excursions away from the yoked stick. At times these excursions would result in trouble such as the time they tried to nestle in under an adult Fairy Tern – not their parent - sitting on a nearby nest.
|The “yoked stick” pair had a scrape at both ends of the stick where they spent their rest times, either together or singly, in the shelter afforded by the stick.|
|The “yoked stick” pair at 10-12 days old. Note the feathers developing on the mantle (back), wings and tail. There is no sign of feathers on the body and head which are still down covered at this stage.|
|This is the dark or grey morph “parallel sticks” chick which is about 10 days old.|
|This is the light or ginger morph “parallel sticks” sibling to the chick in the above photo. It has just been fed. Note feather development is similar to the “yoked stick’ pair – they are the same age give or take a day.|
|The blond “yoked stick” chick taking shelter at the yoke end of the stick.|
the chicks entered the depression they vigorously raked some sand out with
their feet. The scrape enlarged as the chicks grew. There was another scrape at
the other end of the stick. Woody debris such as this provides highly valuable
protection for developing chicks.
|The “yoked stick” pair showing feather development at 10-12 days old. Their heads and bodies are still downy.|
|Another photo showing feather development on the wings at 10-12 days.|
|While the oldest chicks in the colony were 10-12 days old this one is only 3 or 4 days old. This chick is one of a pair and both rejected the fish which I think may be too big for them to swallow.|
|My first 17-19 day old chick photo taken on our fourth visit.|
Note the mantle, wing and tail feather development and now feathers are replacing the down on the head. The body still appears to be only down covered at this stage though white body feathers are developing below the down.
|At 17-19 days fledgling pairs are still sticking together and sheltering in scrapes by woody debris.|
|Seen on their own the chicks still looked small however when they stood beside a parent their size became apparent.|
|This is the “parallel sticks” pair at 17-19 days old.|
|Same bird as above – this shot shows feather development on the wing.|
|At 17-19 days old the young birds are spending a lot of time preening the new feathers as they displace the down and waiting to have their now insatiable appetites satisfied.|
|A moment after the above photo was taken and the parent is coming in with a fish and the young bird gets excited. Note the wing feather development – still a way to go to achieve sustained flight.|
|This is a 25-27 day old juvenile Fairy Tern. It is fully fledged and can make short flights.|
Same bird as above showing wing feather development.
|Even at 25-27 days old and fully fledged these birds are still waiting to be fed and will settle in a scrape/depression to rest and wait just as they did when they were young chicks. They are still very dependent on their parents.|
|Many of the young birds exercised their wings. Birds of this age are capable of short flights.|
|Right from downy young through to fully fledged juveniles, the down and later the mantle and wing feather patterns and colours was highly variable between birds.|
Nine days later, on 15/12/2017, the seventh visit found the breeding colony completely deserted with no Fairy or Little Terns of any age present and visible remains of dead birds. An investigation of the breeding area found no evidence for the abandonment of the colony. At this stage, many young would have been incapable of leaving the colony as many of the juveniles could not fly.
|This juvenile Fairy Tern could be as old as 48-50 days.|
|This juvenile Fairy Tern is developing some yellow in the bill compared to the bird in the above photo.|