Sooty tern: Three Kings Islands

Bird sighting information. Use this forum to report bird sightings (especially rare and unusual birds), census and field count results, and trip reports. Messages posted to this forum will also be sent as a plain text email to the BIRDING-NZ newsgroup.
User avatar
Peter Frost
Posts: 175
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:59 am

Sooty tern: Three Kings Islands

Postby Peter Frost » Sun Dec 10, 2017 11:40 pm

On 23 November 2017, Neil Fitzgerald, Richard Robinson, Olivia Hamilton and myself carried out a survey of know Australasian gannet colonies in the northern North Island, from Horuhoru Rock and islands off the Coromandel in the east, up to the Three Kings Islands, then down to Karewa Island off Kawhia in the west. We also searched for any large, unreported red-billed gull colonies. In addition, at the request of the Department of Conservation, we censused the tiny Northern Buller's Mollymawk population first found nesting on Rosemary Rock in the Three Kings Islands in 1983 and for which we have no recent counts.

While searching through photographs of Rosemary Rock taken by Neil and Richard, I came across a solitary Sooty Tern sitting among a group of loafing and nesting Red-billed Gulls. The bird is clearly distinguishable as a Sooty Tern by its uniform dark brown crown, nape and back contrasting strongly with white underparts, and by its white forehead that does not extend back beyond the eye (to the extent that the position of the eye can be inferred in the greatly enlarged photograph).

Sooty tern_D4_8032_Neil Fitzgerald.jpg
Sooty tern_D4_8032_Neil Fitzgerald.jpg (563.66 KiB) Viewed 1322 times


The bird was visible in only two of the many photographs taken of the rock, having flown off between the first and subsequent passes around the island. A smudgy image of a brown tern-sized bird, about the same size as the Red-billed Gulls flying alongside it, is visible in one of my photographs as we approached the rock on the fourth and final pass.

Rosemary Rock_probably sooty tern in flight_PGHF.jpg
Rosemary Rock_probably sooty tern in flight_PGHF.jpg (315.88 KiB) Viewed 1322 times


This appears to be the first record of Sooty Tern for the Three Kings Islands, although that surely reflects the infrequency of observations rather than the rarity of the species there, given that large numbers breed on Norfolk Island, 680 km NW, and the Kermadec Islands, 1080 km NE.

A total of 38 Northern Buller's Mollymawks were counted occupying 35 presumed nest sites on Rosemary Rock, a considerable increase from the 18 birds and 15 nests (13 occupied) recorded in January 1985, the last reported count (McCallum et al. Notornis 32, 257–259, 1985).

This flight was co-funded by Birds New Zealand and the Department of Conservation's Conservation Services Programme (Project POP2017-06 Indirect Impacts on Seabirds in North-east North Island region, run by the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust).

Peter Frost
User avatar
Tim Barnard
Posts: 362
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:30 pm
Location: Okere Falls

Re: Sooty tern: Three Kings Islands

Postby Tim Barnard » Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:45 pm

Hi
The Wrybill lads had one off the 3Ks a few years ago (amongst other juicy things). A trip I missed. Sigh.
Tim
User avatar
RussCannings
Posts: 1017
Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:23 am

Re: Sooty tern: Three Kings Islands

Postby RussCannings » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:08 pm

Very interesting report Peter. Any other observations of note on the survey. Can almost imagine that's a chick directly left of the tern...

Russ
Clinton9
Posts: 971
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 10:22 pm

Re: Sooty tern: Three Kings Islands

Postby Clinton9 » Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:45 pm

RussCannings wrote:Very interesting report Peter. Any other observations of note on the survey. Can almost imagine that's a chick directly left of the tern...

Russ


Chick left of sooty tern, was a Red-billed gull chick.

Return to “Bird Sightings and Alerts”