Rare sighting: Gull-billed tern

Gull-billed tern 350x
Gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) at Blue Bay Resort on August 18 2018

On Curaçao you can find Laughing Gulls, and what is called a ‘Lachstern’ in Dutch, which means a Laughing tern if you translate the name to English. In English however we call this species a Gull-billed tern. The laughing gull is a bird species that can be found here almost all year round, and even breeds on our island territory. At Klein Curaçao, in the period from April to mid-July. At present these birds can be seen at different locations, such as Playa Kanoa and Koredor, where the adult animals are accompanied by juvenile birds that are gray in colour.

The Gull-billed tern is a guest on our island, which is not seen that often, and last week we had the honour to observe one of these birds. Only the 3rd sighting for us. These birds are known as rare migrants on Curaçao. They do not breed here, do not stay for a very long time and do not visit our island every year. They are relatively large, about 35 cm, tail included, and are therefore smaller than the Royal tern. But it is especially the beak that is strikingly different from other tern species. The beak looks like a beak of a gull, short and thick, and not long and thin like that of most other tern species. In addition, the birds also have a relatively short tail if you compare them with other terns.
In addition to fish, these birds also eat a wide range of insects and are therefore often found along freshwater basins where dragonflies and other large insects occur. There they fly off and on in circles to find prey.

The bird species can be found in various places around the world, from Europe to Australia and North and South America. In the Caribbean there are a few locations where small groups of Gull-billed terns breed, including the Bahamas. The bird species also breeds in the United States and in certain places in South America. But not on our island. Here they only come to visit every now and then.


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