Black-fronted tern

Sterna striata

Physical Description

The Black-Fronted Tern is a small to medium-sized seabird with a slender body and long wings. It has white plumage on the underside, while the upperparts are pale grey. The most distinctive feature is the black cap on its head, extending to its eyes. Adults have a black forehead, giving them their name, while juveniles have a mottled appearance and lack a black cap.

Habitat and Range

Black-Fronted Terns are coastal birds commonly found around New Zealand's coasts and its offshore islands. They inhabit various coastal environments, including sandy beaches, rocky shores, estuaries, and harbours. They are also known to nest on offshore islands and occasionally inland near suitable bodies of water.

Feeding Habits

Black-Fronted Terns are piscivorous and primarily feed on small fish. They forage by flying above the water and diving to catch fish near the surface. They can also feed on small crustaceans and other marine invertebrates.

Breeding and Nesting

Black-Fronted Terns typically breed in colonies, forming pairs during the breeding season. The nests are usually constructed on the ground, in scrapes or depressions lined with shells, pebbles, or other debris. They lay 1-2 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks once they hatch. The nests are often located in sandy or gravelly areas away from vegetation.

Conservation Status

The Black-Fronted Tern is not currently considered globally threatened. However, local populations may face conservation concerns, mainly due to habitat disturbance and predation from introduced mammals. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their nesting sites, managing coastal habitats, and raising awareness about their conservation needs.

Trees and Plant Preferences

Black-Fronted Terns do not have specific tree or plant preferences, as they primarily nest on the ground or rocky areas near the coast.

Interesting Facts

  • Black-Fronted Terns are agile and acrobatic flyers, often performing aerial displays and hovering over the water before diving to catch their prey.
  • They are highly gregarious birds often seen in large flocks, particularly during the non-breeding season.
  • Black-Fronted Terns are known for their sharp, shrill calls for communication with their mates and colony members.
  • They are an essential species in coastal ecosystems, contributing to the balance of marine food webs and playing a role in dispersing marine nutrients through their droppings.