- Gull-billed Tern
name = Gull-billed Tern
status = LC| status= LC | status_system = IUCN3.1
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
genus = "Gelochelidon"
genus_authority = C. L. Brehm,
species = "G. nilotica"
binomial = "Gelochelidon nilotica"
binomial_authority = (Gmelin,
1789)The Gull-billed Tern, "Gelochelidon nilotica", formerly "Sterna nilotica" (Bridge "et al.", 2005), is a seabirdof the ternfamily Sternidae.
It breeds in warmer parts of the world in southern
Europe(and a very small isolated population in northern Germanyand Denmark), temperate and eastern Asia, both coasts of North America, eastern South Americaand Australia. This birdhas a number of geographical races, differing mainly in size and minor plumage details.
All forms show a post-breeding dispersal, but the northern breeders are most migratory, wintering south to
Africa, the Caribbeanand northern South America, southern Asia and New Zealand. This species breeds in colonies on lakes, marshes and coasts. It nests in a ground scrape and lays two to five eggs.
This is a somewhat atypical tern, in appearance like a "Sterna" tern, but with feeding habits more like the "Chlidonias" marsh terns,
Black Ternand White-winged Tern. It used to be grouped in the genus " Sterna" but is now placed on its own in the genus "Gelochelidon".
The Gull-billed Tern does not normally plunge dive for
fishlike the other white terns, but feeds on insects taken in flight, and also often hunts over wet fields, to take frogs and small mammals (mice, voles, etc).
This is a fairly large and powerful tern, similar in size and general appearance to a
Sandwich Tern, but the short thick gull-like bill, broad wings, long legs and robust body are distinctive. The summer adult has grey upperparts, white underparts, a black cap, strong black bill and black legs. The call is a characteristic "ker-wik".
In winter, the cap is lost, and there is a dark patch through the eye like a
Forster's Ternor a Mediterranean Gull. Juvenile Gull-billed Terns have a fainter mask, but otherwise look much like winter adults.
Juvenile Sandwich Terns have a short bill, and are frequently mistaken for Gull-billed Tern where the latter species is uncommon, such as
The Gull-billed Tern is one of the species to which the "Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds" (
* Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
* Bridge, E. S.; Jones, A. W. & Baker, A. J. (2005): A phylogenetic framework for the terns (Sternini) inferred from mtDNA sequences: implications for taxonomy and plumage evolution. "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution" 35: 459–469. [http://www2.hawaii.edu/~khayes/Journal_Club/summer2006/Bridge_et_al_2005_MPE.pdf PDF fulltext]
* Collinson, M. (2006). Splitting headaches? Recent taxonomic changes affecting the British and Western Palaearctic lists. "British Birds" 99(6): 306-323.
* Harrison, Peter (1988): "Seabirds (2nd edition)". Christopher Helm, London ISBN 0-7470-1410-8
* National Geographic Society (2002): "Field Guide to the Birds of North America". National Geographic, Washington DC. ISBN 0-7922-6877-6
* Olsen, Klaus Malling & Larsson, Hans (1995): "Terns of Europe and North America". Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-4056-1
* [http://www.flickr.com/groups/birdguide/pool/tags/Gelochelidon%20nilotica Photo Field Guide on Flickr]
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