Australian Fairy Tern  |  

Sternula nereis nereis

Status: Vulnerable on the EPBC Act list

A small piscivorous (fish-eating) bird, the Fairy Tern is approximately 22–27 cm in length, 70 g in weight and has a wingspan of 44–53 cm. The Fairy Tern is bulky and round bodied. The breeding plumage of both sexes is pale grey-white, with a black crown, nape, ear coverts and patch in front of the eyes (square to round in shape). The forehead is white and the bill is orange-yellow. Legs are dull yellow and the iris is dark brown. There is also little sexual dimorphism in non-breeding plumage, with a black bill and a more mottled appearance to the crown. Outer primary feathers are also less contrasting with no dark shoulder bar. Immature birds have blackish legs and bills. The crown is streaked dusky and buff with a dark ear patch. The outer wing is dark greyish and the inner wing is pale grey and white. The species is gregarious and often found in flocks of 50–150 birds. However the bird is also seen singularly or in pairs.

Government evidence of impact of climate change:

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  • Australian Government, Listing Advice, Sternula nereis nereis

    Given the exposed nature of its nesting and roosting sites the species is vulnerable to extreme weather events such as storms; floods; high tides and wind blown sand which can cause breeding failure in a particular region and put an entire breeding season at risk at that locality.