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Taranui - Caspian tern - Sterna caspia | by Steve Attwood
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Taranui - Caspian tern - Sterna caspia

Photographed at Ashley Estuary, Canterbury, NZ.

An uncommon native tern. The largest of the native terns in New Zealand. They are about 51 centimetres long and weigh 700 grams. They have a white body and silver-grey wings. In the breeding season their black cap tapers to a fine point above an orange-pink bill. Caspian terns feed by plunging for surface-swimming fish; they also take whitebait, bullies and eels. These terns are found throughout the temperate world, except for South America. The New Zealand population wis estimated at 3000 birds. The terns breed mainly around the coast, although some nest inland near Lake Rotorua and on river beds in Canterbury. Colonies are usually close to other terns or gulls. They breed from September to January and lay one to three light-flecked eggs in a shallow scrape on sand. Terns’ chief enemies are black-backed gulls, which eat the eggs and chicks. Chicks fledge at 33–38 days. Caspian terns live about 24 years. Threats are mainly increased human activity including planting of marram grass and/or trees on the bare sand spits they nest on, and disturbance by beach goers, especially the likes of four-wheel-drive and other off-road vehicles.

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Taken on July 29, 2012