The birds at the LNR – The Tern

These birds can commonly be seen around the lagoon during May to August. All have used the islands for nesting. They have spent the other months in Africa and return here each year to breed.

Tern have a very aerodynamic shape and are powerful and skilful fliers. Always a pleasure to watch.

All images Peter Drury unless otherwise stated

 Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)

These, as the name implies, are the smallest of the Tern that visit us. They originally used the two islands in the Oysterbed lagoon to breed. They have been displaced by the Black-headed Gulls and Common Tern and now nest on the RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour. They do still visit the lagoon to fish and can be seen over the coastline from the road bridge to the Oysterbeds.

Seen here hovering over the lagoon in typical hunting pose.

In flight over the lagoon

Quick ID Guide

The distinctive features of these birds, apart from size, is the yellow beak and white forehead.

Further Info

In 2010, another bund, further north, was re-charged with fresh gravel and decoys were placed on top to attract Little Tern to use the bund. This unfortunately was not successful.


 Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Some 100+ pairs of Common Tern nest each year on the two lagoon islands.

Seen here hovering over the lagoon in typical hunting pose.

They put on aerial displays which are simply stunning.

Display flight 1

Display flight 2

Quick ID Guide

The distinctive features are the red beak which is black tipped and the red legs.

Further Info

Images following the breeding activity of this species can be found at

 Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

These are the largest of the Tern commonly found in Langstone Harbour.

Seen here flying over the lagoon.

Adult approaching the nest site on North Island

Adult at the nest site on North Island with a fish for it’s chicks

Quick ID Guide

A yellow-tipped black bill and a shaggy black crest

Further Info

About 6 pairs took up residence on North Island for the first time in 2011. The main nesting site for this species is on the RSPB Islands in the harbour.

More images of this species at!i=1370629275&k=nDnLkpz


 More information about the Tern Family (Sternidae)

All images copyright Peter Drury

I hope these images encourage you to see these fabulous birds between May and August at the LNR.

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