T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Tern (White) Gygis alba

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Sternidae
Genus: Gygis
Species: G. alba
Binomial name: Gygis alba
Common name: White tern, Angel tern, White noddy.

Gygis alba (White tern) is a small seabird found across the tropical oceans of the world. It has white plumage and a long black bill. With a wingspan of about 25 inches (640 mm), it ranges widely across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and also nests in some Atlantic islands. Nesting on coral islands, usually on trees with small branches but also on rocky ledges and on man-made structures, the white tern feeds on small fish which it catches by plunge diving

This tern lives in Oceania, from Hawaii to New Zealand; along the coast of China and Vietnam, Indonesia, India, the islands of the Indian Ocean, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. Rarely it is also found in Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, and on some islands of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a bird pelagic and epipelagic (illuminated zone at the surface of the sea), and lives along the coast and during the period of breeding moves in wooded areas.

The White tern is notable for laying its egg on bare thin branches in a small fork or depression without a nest. This behaviour is unusual for terns, which generally nest on the ground, and even the related tree-nesting black noddy constructs a nest. It is thought that the reason for the absence of nests is the reduction in nest parasites, which in some colonial seabirds can cause the abandonment of an entire colony. In spite of these benefits there are costs associated with tree nesting, as the eggs and chicks are vulnerable to becoming dislodged by heavy winds. For this reason the white tern is also quick to relay should it lose the egg. The newly hatched chicks have well developed feet with which to hang on to their precarious nesting site. It is a long-lived bird, having been recorded living for 42 years. (Wikipedia)

  


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