• Little Tern

    Little Tern ©Kenneth Lam Common name:Little Tern Scientific name: Sternula albifrons Local names: Малая крачка(Russian), Хурган хараалай(Mongolian), 白额燕鸥 (Simplified Chinese), 白額燕鷗/小燕鷗 (traditional Chinese), 쇠제비갈매기 (Korean), コアジサシ(Japanese), Dara laut kecil (Indonesian), Camar Kecil (Malayu), Nhàn nhỏ (Vietnamese), นกนางนวลแกลบเล็ก (Thai). Conservation status: IUCN - Least Concern The Little Tern is one of the smallest tern species in EAA Flyway. It has wide distribution range across the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the East Atlantic Flyway. Five subspecies recognized: Sternula albifrons albifrons; Sternula albifrons innominate; Sternula albifrons guineae; Sternula albifrons sinensis and Sternula albifrons placens, with the later two subspecies S. a. sinensis  and S. a. placens found within the EAA Flyway.     Identification Size: 22–28 cm; wingspan 47–55 cm. Body: slender light grey wings and body, with a white rump, tail long and forked Breeding plumage Head: distinctive white forehead, black cap and lores. Beak: bright yellow beak with a small black tip Orange-yellow legs Non-breeding Plumage Head: forehead is more predominantly white Beak: blackish beak Dull orange to blackish legs Juveniles appear like the non-breeding adults, except for a narrower black rear crown, and a more brownish-white forehead and crown. They have a U-shaped marking which is visible on the shoulders Little Terns can be confused with Fairy Terns (Sternula neresis), Saunder's Terns (Sternula saundersi), Least Terns (Sternula antillarum), Yellow-billed Terns (Sternula superciliaris), and Peruvian Terns (Sternula lorata). Distribution range Sternula albifrons sinensis: Palaearctic breeders in southeastern Siberia, Korea Penisular, Japan and China migrate south in the non-breeding season, mainly in the tropical region, but could reach down to New Guinea and Australia. Some are also found all year round in northern India and Sri Lanka east to southeastern Asia, the Philippines, and northern Australia. Sternula albifrons placens: East Australia and East Tasmania Habitat Breeding habitat Little Tern breeds on sand spits, banks, ridges or islets, and sandy beaches in coastal environments including coastal lakes, estuaries and inlets.  The nest is a shallow scrape positioned on the ground above the high tide-line and often only a few meters away from shallow clear water where it lays one to three eggs a clutch. Breeding habitat of Little Tern © Yutaka Otsuka Non-breeding habitat Coastal tidal creeks, lagoons and saltpans; sometimes feed in the open sea. Non-breeding site in Singapore ©Kenneth Lam Behavior Little Terns is a ground-nesting bird and it nests in small loose colonies., with the distance between nests usually more than 2m. Breeding colonies are small to medium-sized, up to 40 pairs, seldom > 100 pairs. Little Tern shows moderately high site fidelity.  Courtship occurs by presenting and feeding the females with fish and may last from a few days to weeks. Population estimate The global population is estimated to number c.190,000-410,000 individuals. There is no accurate census date for subspecies S.a. sinensis but estimated to 10,000 – 100,000 birds, while S. a. placens is estimated to have 10,000 birds. Main threats Habitat loss by reclamation Human disturbance, e.g. recreational and tourism activities at coastal areas close to breeding colonies Stray or feral dogs and cats at breeding sites. Other threats: Pollution Egg collection Artificially-induced water-level fluctuation Sand-mining Natural threats: Flooding Adverse weather conditions, e.g. typhoons, heavy rains, strong winds and waves Natural predators (e.g. Peregrine Falcon, snakes, rats)   Conservation Work Artificial breeding habitat on building rooftop in Tokyo, Japan to restore Little Tern breeding colony Since 2001, a new NGO Little Tern Project has been established to manage the initiative of building artificial breeding habitats on the rooftop of buildings in Tokyo Bay, Japan. This sustained over 2000 nests, although the population fluctuate due to various factors. The project also integrates with local community engagement and citizen science. Conservation of Little Tern is also part of local policy, e.g. Basic Environmental Plan of Ota City. Learn more: https://littletern.net/ Little Tern breeding at Morigasaki Water Reclamation Center of Tokyo © Little Tern Project Tracking and studies on migratory routes of Little Tern There are independent or internationally collaborative banding and tracking projects on Little Tern. Banding and colour-marking have been done in Australia by New South Wales (NSW) National Park and Wildlife Services (2003). In Japan, Yamashina Institute of Ornithology, Japanese Society for Preservation of Birds and Little Tern Project had banding and banding programme, and utilize of geo-locators. Japan had a collaborative project with Australia between 2012-2015 (link). In Guangdong, China, a joint research carried out by Little Tern Project, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Guangdong Haifeng Bird Provincial Nature Reserve Office, and Sun Yat-sen University has done colour-marking on Little Terns in 2017 and 2018. A yellow ring with a white engraving of A and 2 numerals had been placed on the right tarsus, as shown in the photo below (Yu, pers. comms.). However, further surveys in 2018 could not find any colour-marked Little Tern at this site. A Little Tern with geolocator ©Eugene Cheah Little Tern Recovery Plan in New South Wales, Australia The Little Tern is listed as Endangered in New South Wales of Australia under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act). This Recovery Plan was launched in 2003, which constitutes the approved NSW State Recovery Plan for the Little Tern. It covers conservation requirements of the species across and identifies conservation actions to be undertaken to ensure the long-term survivorship of the species. Learn more: link © New South Wales Government   Fun Fact A Little Tern in Australia had been recorded to reach 17 years old. Generally, Little Terns start breeding from 3 years old, occasionally at 2 years old. Regarding species looks similar to the Little Tern, while Fairy Tern might turn up in Indonesia and Saunders’s Tern in western SE Asia, Yellow-billed Tern and Peruvian Tern are highly unlikely to be found in EAAF countries. The most frequent confusion is with the Least Tern. It is an uncommon but regular visitor to Japan (first confirmed record was a banded bird from North Dekota, USA recovered at the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan in July 2014) and probably can occasionally be found in eastern Asia. References  IUCN Red List: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22694656/155476219 Birds of the World: https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/litter1/cur/introduction Chinese Crested Tern Restoration of the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern using social attraction technique A Conservation Success in Minjiang River Estuary A tern for the better Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Terns appear on a deserted island in South Korea The First Ever Banded Chinese Crested Tern Chick has Fledged EAAFP Seabird Working Group Update Brave efforts pay off in doubly-successful project to restore colonies of Chinese Crested Tern Chinese Crested Tern is the rarest wanderer in the world 寻找”神话之鸟”:中华凤头燕鸥


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  • Aleutian Tern

    ©️ Kenneth Lam Common name: Aleutian Tern Scientific name: Onychoprion aleutica Local names: 白腰燕鸥 (Simplified Chinese), 白腰燕鷗(traditional Chinese), Алеутская крачка(Russian), 알류샨제비갈매기(Korean) , コシジロアジサシ(Japanese),  Daralaut Aleutian (Indonesian), Camar Aleutian (Malayu). Conservation status: IUCN - Vulnerable Aleutian Tern (Onychoprion aleutica) is a representative of an East Asian-Australasian Flyway species. It is a medium-sized, coastal and colonial nesting seabird. The species was discovered in 1868 on Kodiak Island, Alaska, but studies are limited, mainly at breeding grounds. Its breeding ground  Aleutian Tern is often found associated with Common Tern or Arctic Tern. The population of the bird is declining and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Identification Size: 32-28cm; wingspan 75-80cm. Body: mid-grey back and has long wings, the underparts are a dark gray, while rump and forked tail are white Head: Breeding – adults have black cap and lore with a white forehead, chin, throat, and cheeks; Juvenile: brownish crown, and upper body Underwing: dark leading edges on secondaries are diagnostic for identication. Beak: Black Legs: Short and black Distribution range Breeding range: at colonies in coastal Siberia, including Sakhalin Island, the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Sea of Okhotsk, and in the Bering Sea at Olyutortskiy Bay and Karagin Island, while in Southwest Alaska, they were found in Kasegaluk Lagoon, on the Seward Peninsula, the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta, and along the Alaska Peninsula, as well as the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak Archipelago, Kenai Peninsula, Copper River delta, and along the Gulf of Alaska as far east as Dry Bay. Non-breeding range: in spring and autumn offshore across the East Asia region covering waters in Japan, Korea, China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the Philippines, and in winter found in the tropical western Pacific region including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Recent vagrant records reached Australia. Habitat The Aleutian tern breeds on wetlands and solitary rocky islands along coasts, particularly at river mouths, along with sparsely vegetated shorelines, grassy meadows, and marshes. It is pelagic during the non-breeding season. Behavior Breeding season occurs from May-August with egg-laying mostly in June, usually nesting among Arctic Terns in Alaska or Common Terns in Russia. Aleutian terns primarily feed on small fish, but also eat insects, crustaceans and zooplankton. They forage by flying, hovering low over water, and then surface-dip or pounce to take the food from the water surface. Population estimate About 31,000 mature individuals. Main threats Habitat degradation Egg harvest and hunting Human disturbance Natural threats: Natural predators (e.g. American Mink, Fox, rats) and domestic dogs Conservation Work Aleutian Tern Conservation Plan and a Statewide Aleutian Tern Colony Census Protocol in Alaska As Aleutian Tern is a species of USFWS and ADF&G “Species of Conservation Concern/Species of Conservation Need”, in 2016, an Aleutian Tern Technical Committee (ATTC) was formally established. The ATTC has members include representatives from US’s federal and state agencies, scientists, and NGOs. ADF&G and collaborators. The recent population declines triggered an assessment of the status of the birds in 2017. Fun Fact Aleutian Tern usually nests among Arctic Terns, who are known to be defensive of their nests, so they can take advantage of this behavior, while Aleutian Terns do not attempt to defend their own nests. 11th Yakutat Tern Festival Little Tern “Year of the Terns” Flyway Story Series #16 – Prof. Daniel Roby, Seabird researcher and conservationist Chinese Crested Tern EAAFP Secretariat and Seabird Working Group launches “Year of the Terns” in 2022 Year of the Terns 2022 Conservation Research of breeding terns in Hong Kong Color flagging of Breeding Terns in Hong Kong (2018)


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  • Chinese Crested Tern

    ©Simba Chan   Common name: Chinese Crested Tern Scientific name: Thalasseus bernsteini Local names: 中华凤头燕鸥 (Simplified Chinese), 中華鳳頭燕鷗/黑嘴端鳳頭燕鷗(Traditional Chinese), 뿔제비갈매기 (Korean), ヒガシシナアジサシ(Japanese), Dara-laut Cina (Indonesian), Camar Cina Berjambul (Malayu), Nhàn mào Trung Quốc (Vietnamese). Conservation status: IUCN - Critically Endangered, CMS - Appendix I The Chinese Crested Tern (Thalasseus bernsteini) is one of the rarest seabirds in the world. It seemed it had always been rare. It was not described until 1861, when the type specimen was collected at Kao, Halmahera, Indonesia. Since the last 21 specimens were collected at Qingdao, China in 1937, there was no confirmed record of the species. In 2000, the bird was resighted on Matsu Islands off the coast of Fujian. In 2004 another breeding colony was discovered at Jiushan Islands in Zhejiang Province. With international cooperation using social attraction restored the breeding colony, Chinese Crested Tern is estimated to be about 150 birds in population and is stable or slowly increasing. Identification Size: around 45 cm; wingspan 94 cm. Head: Short crested, Breeding: entire cap turned black with crest; Non-breeding: forehead turned white Beak: bright orange-yellow bill with a black tip and almost invisible white tip at the end of the beak Light grayish from the mantle to upperwing, rump, uppertail-coverts and tail forked tail; black legs Distribution range Breeding range: Since the rediscovery of the species in 2000, there are only five breeding locations: Jiushan Islands, Wuzhishan Islands (Zhejiang, China), Matsu Islands (Fujian, China), Penghu Islands (Taiwan, China) and Chilsando Islands in the Republic of Korea.  Non-breeding range: The bird is believed to breed off Shandong formerly, but is now only sighted in coastal areas in Shandong after breeding season. Non-breeding records were from South China, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and eastern Malaysia.  Confirmed recent wintering grounds include Seram, Maluku of Indonesia and Mindanao of the Philippines. Eastern Indonesia and the Philippines are likely to be the major wintering areas for this species. Habitat Breeding habitat of Chinese Crested Tern, Tiedun Dao, Zhejiang, China © Simba Chan Chinese Crested Tern breeds only on offshore uninhabited islets, non-breeding habitat is of little information. Non-breeding ground in Indonesia © Ken Fung Behavior During the breeding season, Chinese Crested Tern usually congregate with Greater Crested Tern nesting areas, but in Ro Korea they nest in colony of Black-tailed Gulls. They can move between different colonies in the breeding season and are very nervous at disturbance. They are very little known during the non-breeding season but are likely to stay in flocks with Greater Crested Terns. However, these two species may not migrate together as previously assumed. Breeding Chinese and Greater Crested Terns in Tiedun Dao, China © Simba Chan Population estimate About 150 individuals of all ages (prior to 2012, only less than 50 individuals). Main threats Human disturbance (people reaching too close to the breeding colonies) Egg collection Other threats: Pollution (water pollution, plastic pollution) Overfishing Natural threats: Typhoons Natural predators (e.g. Peregrine Falcon, snakes, rats) Conservation Work Social attraction setting to restore Chinese Crested Tern in China © Vivian Fu International collaboration to use social attraction technique to restore breeding population Since 2011, an international cooperation project using social attraction (using decoys and playback) restored the breeding colony at Jiushan. The population increased from less than 50 to about 150 in 10 years. Subsequently, Social attraction was also done in breeding grounds of Matsu, Wuzhishan and Chilsando. Remove human-induced threats Through education and advocacy to promote law enforcement to prevent exploitation (egg collection) and disturbance, such as regulated tourism, allocation of park rangers for monitoring, as well as fishing communities and public engagement. Fun Fact Chinese Crested Tern was once thought extinct, so when it was rediscovered after 63 years in 2000, the bird was called “Bird of Legend”. Prior to 1975, the Chinese Crested Tern was known as Sterna zimmermanni Reichenow 1903 and the type locality was thought to be Qingdao of Shandong Province, China (when the team from Fan Memorial Institute of Biology collected 21 specimens from Qingdao area in 1937 all of them were labeled as Thalasseus zimmermanni). It was later on corrected that the type specimen should be the one collected near Halmahera, Indonesia in 1861, which had been misplaced as a population of Greater Crested Tern. Interestingly, when Dr. Nagamichi Kuroda obtained his specimen of Chinese Crested Tern from Korea in 1917 he also regarded it as a Greater Crested Tern. Luckily he left a detailed description of this long-lost specimen for verification to be a Chinese Crested Tern. Reference IUCN Red List: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22694585/131118818 Birds of the World: https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/chcter2/cur/introduction Simba Chan, 2022, Chinese Crested Tern (Thalasseus bernsteini). Editor(s): Dominick A. DellaSala, Michael I. Goldstein, Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation, Elsevier: Pages 19-28 (link Restoration of the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern using social attraction technique A Conservation Success in Minjiang River Estuary A tern for the better Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Terns appear on a deserted island in South Korea The First Ever Banded Chinese Crested Tern Chick has Fledged EAAFP Seabird Working Group Update Brave efforts pay off in doubly-successful project to restore colonies of Chinese Crested Tern Chinese Crested Tern is the rarest wanderer in the world 寻找”神话之鸟”:中华凤头燕鸥 The Bird of Legend: Chinese Crested Tern


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  • EAAFP Secretariat and Seabird Working Group launches “Year of the Terns” in 2022

    On 22nd February, 2022, the EAAFP Secretariat and EAAFP Seabird Working Group announced 2022 as the “Year of the Terns” for the EAA Flyway. The announcement is a preface to the focus that EAAFP will put on raising awareness and promoting collaboration for the conservation of seabirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAA Flyway). The campaign was officially launched during the 49th Annual Meeting of Pacific Seabird Group (PSG) Northeast Asia Seabird Conservation Committee Meeting. There are over 150 seabird species in the EAA Flyway. Many seabird species have long trans-equatorial migration routes and spend most of the year at sea, only returning to land to breed. Since much of their annual lifecycle is spent offshore, they are especially difficult to study and most aspects of their life histories remain poorly understood in the EAA Flyway. While many populations are doing well, others are experiencing population declines that are difficult to detect given the months they remain away from global eyes. To increasing awareness of these Ocean Sentinels, the Secretariat and the EAAFP Seabird Working Group are excited to designate 2022 as the “Year of the Terns”. The Secretariat and the EAAFP Seabird Working Group hope to accomplish the following three objectives with this campaign: 1. To raise awareness of seabirds, especially terns, within EAA Flyway 2. To encourage dialogues and collaboration on seabirds research and conservation within EAA Flyway 3. To promote and strengthen working relationships within EAAFP Seabird Working Group, also with site managers of Flyway Network Sites for seabirds, and beyond To do so, seven, out of the 16 EAA Flyway tern species, were selected for the campaign, including the Chinese Crested Tern (CR), Aleutian Tern (VU), Greater Crested Tern, Bridled Tern, Little Tern, Black-naped Tern and Roseate Tern. The Secretariat and Seabird WG will also be developing activities for the campaign accordingly. Robb Kaler, Chair of EAAFP Seabird Working Group, expressed “According to a global assessment, seabirds are generally more threatened than other comparable groups of birds. Many populations have declined rapidly in recent decades due to various threats, including incidental bycatch, overfishing, pollution, invasive species, warming oceans and more. We hope that the “Year of the Terns” campaign, will raise awareness about seabirds, both for the health of their populations, and as an indicator of the health of oceans on which seabirds and all of us depend. We are excited for this opportunity for more joint actions to conserve seabirds in the EAA Flyway and expand the Seabird Working Group’s network of partners.” Doug Watkins, Chief Executive of EAAFP Secretariat said. “Seabirds received relatively less attention and conservation effort in the EAA Flyway compared to other taxa, probably due to the vast distribution range of many species and the challenges to study them. Therefore, we need to strengthen our network in seabird studies and conservation and promote more collaboration in the region, and the actions cannot be delayed.” Stay tuned for more upcoming activities such as a photo competition and a talk series. The EAAFP Secretariat and Seabird Working Group invite everyone to support and celebrate the “Year of the Terns with them! Check the “Year of the Terns” webpage: https://www.eaaflyway.net/year-of-the-terns-2022/ For inquiries and interest to support the Year of the Terns, please contact: Ms. Vivian Fu Communication Officer, EAAFP Secretariat Email: communication@eaaflyway.net


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  • Year of the Terns 2022

    2022 Year of the Terns Introduction:   There are over 150 seabird species in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway (EAA Flyway). Many of them spend most of their lives in offshore oceans and have long trans-equatorial migration routes, only coming to land during the breeding season. This makes it especially difficult to study seabirds, and most species remain understudied in the EAA Flyway. Furthermore, while some species have large populations, many others face the risk of extinction and population decline due to various threats such as offshore fishery practices, and invasive species on islands; some of which are specific to seabirds.   To raise awareness among EAAFP Partners, researchers, conservationists, and the general public, while promoting the exchange of information and collaboration on seabird species in the EAA Flyway, the EAAFP and the Seabird Working Group initiated the Year of the Terns in 2022. Out of the 16 tern species in the EAA Flyway, seven species were selected: Chinese Crested Tern (CR), Aleutian Tern (VU), Greater Crested Tern, Bridled Tern, Little Tern, Black-naped Tern and Roseate Tern.   Stay tuned for the upcoming activities, and all are invited to support us in the Year of the Terns! Learn about Terns in EAA Flyway (factsheet) (coming soon) EAAFP Year of the Terns Photo Competition Talk series At World Seabird Day Tern of the Month Chinese Crested Tern Aleutian Tern Little Tern Tern species list for the EAA Flyway SpeciesCommon NameIUCN status Thalasseus bernsteiniChinese Crested TernCR Sterna acuticauda Black-bellied TernEN Chlidonias albostriatusBlack-fronted TernEN Sternula nereis Fairy Tern VU Onychoprion aleuticusAleutian TernVU Sterna aurantiaRiver TernVU Gelochelidon niloticaGull-billed TernLC Hydroprogne caspiaCaspian TernLC Thalasseus bengalensisLesser Crested TernLC Thalasseus bergiiGreater Crested TernLC Sterna dougalliiRoseate TernLC Sterna striataWhite-fronted TernLC Sterna sumatranaBlack-naped TernLC Sterna hirundoCommon TernLC Sterna paradisaeaArctic TernLC Sternula albifronsLittle TernLC Onychoprion lunatusGrey-backed TernLC Onychoprion anaethetusBridled TernLC Onychoprion fuscatusSooty TernLC Chlidonias hybridaWhiskered TernLC Chlidonias leucopterusWhite-winged TernLC Gygis albaWhite TernLC Sterna vittataAntarctic TernLC Anous stolidusBrown NoddyLC Anous minutusBlack NoddyLC Anous tenuirostrisLesser NoddyLC Gelochelidon macrotarsaAustralian TernLC Supporting Organizations: Sponsors: For inquiries:   Ms. Vivian Fu   Communication Officer, EAAFP Secretariat   Email: communication@eaaflyway.net     * Illustration and visual design by Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok News about terns in EAAF 11th Yakutat Tern Festival Little Tern Aleutian Tern “Year of the Terns” Flyway Story Series #16 – Prof. Daniel Roby, Seabird researcher and conservationist Chinese Crested Tern EAAFP Secretariat and Seabird Working Group launches “Year of the Terns” in 2022 Conservation Research of breeding terns in Hong Kong Color flagging of Breeding Terns in Hong Kong (2018)


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  • Conservation Research of breeding terns in Hong Kong

    The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS) has started a conservation research on breeding terns in Hong Kong waters. In summer 2019, a total of 110 adult and juvenile…


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  • Color flagging of Breeding Terns in Hong Kong (2018)

    Following the color flagging of Bridled Terns (Onychoprion anaethetus) in 2017 (https://eaaflyway.net/bridled-terns-onychoprion-anaethetus-ringed-in-hong-kong/), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of the Hong Kong Government continued the flagging of…


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