Sooty tern

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Sooty tern
Sterna fuscata.JPG
Onychoprion fuscatus nubilosus (or O. f. oahuensis) on Tern Island (French Frigate Shoals)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Suborder: Lari
Family: Sternidae
Genus: Onychoprion
Species: O. fuscatus
Binomial name
Onychoprion fuscatus
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Subspecies

2-9, see text

Synonyms

Onychoprion fuscata (lapsus)
Sterna fuscata Linnaeus, 1766
Sterna fuscata fuscata Linnaeus, 1766
Sterna fuscata nubilosa
and see text

The sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) (formerly Sterna fuscata[2]), is a seabird of the tern family (Sternidae). It is a bird of the tropical oceans, breeding on islands throughout the equatorial zone. Colloquially, it is known as the wideawake tern or just wideawake. This refers to the incessant calls produced by a colony of these birds, as does the Hawaiian name ʻewa ʻewa which roughly means "cacophony".[3] In most of Polynesia its name is manutara or similar however – literally "tern-bird",[4] though it might be better rendered in English as "the tern" or "common tern". This refers to the fact that wherever Polynesian seafarers went on their long voyages, they usually would find these birds in astounding numbers.

Description[edit]

O. f. nubilosus flying on Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean
Juvenile on Lord Howe Island

This is a large tern, similar in size to the Sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) at 33–36 cm (13–14 in) long with an 82–94 cm (34–37 in) wingspan. The wings and deeply forked tail are long, and it has dark black upperparts and white underparts. It has black legs and bill. The average life span is 32 years.[5] Juvenile Sooty Terns are scaly grey above and below. The Sooty Tern is unlikely to be confused with any tern apart from the similarly dark-backed but smaller bridled tern (O. anaethetus). It is darker-backed than that species, and has a broader white forehead and no pale neck collar.

The call is a loud piercing ker-wack-a-wack or kvaark.

Taxonomy[edit]

The Sooty Tern has little interspecific variation, but it can be divided into at least two allopatric subspecies. Some recent authors further subdivide the Indopacific population into up to 8 subspecies altogether, but much of the variation is really clinal. The affinities of eastern Pacific birds (including the famous manutara of Easter Island) are most strongly contested.

Onychoprion fuscatus fuscatus (Linnaeus, 1766)Atlantic sooty tern
Underparts white. Breeds Atlantic and Caribbean.

Onychoprion fuscatus nubilosus (Sparrman, 1788)Indopacific sooty tern[6]
Underparts light grey in fresh plumage, dull white in worn plumage. Breeds from Red Sea across Indian Ocean to at least central Pacific. Some authors restrict this taxon to the Indian Ocean population and use the following subspecies for the birds from Indonesia to the Americas:

Ecology[edit]

Adult O. f. nubilosus with egg in "nest", Seychelles
O. f. nubilosus at Bird Island, Seychelles, home to more than a million of sooty terns at its peak

Sooty terns breed in colonies on rocky or coral islands.[7] It nests in a ground scrape or hole and lays one to three eggs. It feeds by picking fish from the surface in marine environments, often in large flocks, and rarely comes to land except to breed, and can stay out to sea (either soaring or floating on the water) for 3 to 10 years.[8]

This bird is migratory and dispersive, wintering more widely through the tropical oceans. It has very marine habits compared to most terns; sooty terns are generally found inland only after severe storms. The Field Museum, for example, has a male specimen which was found exhausted on August 2, 1933 on the slopes of Mount Cameroon above Buea, about 1000 m (3,500 ft) ASL, after foul weather had hit the Gulf of Guinea.[9] This species is a rare vagrant to western Europe, although a bird was present at Cemlyn Bay, Wales for 11 days in July 2005.[citation needed]

It is also not normally found on the Pacific coasts of the Americas due to its pelagic habits. At Baja California, where several nesting locations are offshore, it can be seen more frequently, whereas for example only two individuals have ever been recorded on the coast of El Salvador - one ring recovered in 1972, and a bird photographed on October 10, 2001 at Lake Olomega[verification needed] which was probably blown there by a storm .[10] Hurricanes can also devastate small breeding colonies, as has been surmised for example for the sooty tern nesting sites on cays off the San Andrés Islands of Colombia.[11]

An exceptionally common bird, the sooty tern is not considered threatened by the IUCN.[1][12]

Role in Easter Island culture[edit]

On Easter Island, this species and the spectacled tern (O. lunatus) are collectively known as manutara. The manutara played an important role in the tangata manu ("birdman") ritual: whichever hopu (champion) could retrieve the first manutara egg from Motu Nui islet would become that year's tangata manu; his clan would receive prime access to resources, especially seabird eggs.

Gallery[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Sterna fuscata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Bridge et al. (2005)
  3. ^ From ʻewa, "crooked, out of shape, imperfect" (Pukui et al. 1992: p.17)
  4. ^ The Polynesian word for terns (tara) is the same as the word for "pointed"; it is easy to see how these sharp-billed fork-tailed birds came to be called thus (Tregear, 1891)
  5. ^ http://www.fws.gov/midway/sote.html
  6. ^ Or "Indian Ocean sooty tern" if more subspecies are accepted.
  7. ^ Streets (1877)
  8. ^ http://www.drytortugasinfo.com/sooty-tern.html
  9. ^ Boulton & Rand (1952)
  10. ^ Herrera et al. (2006)
  11. ^ Estela et al. (2005)
  12. ^ BLI (2008)

References[edit]

  • Boulton, Rudyerd & Rand, A.L. (1952): A collection of birds from Mount Cameroon. Fieldiana Zool. 34(5): 35-64. Fulltext at the Internet Archive
  • 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(2): 459-469. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.12.010 PMID 15804415 PDF fulltext
  • Collinson, M. (2006). Splitting headaches? Recent taxonomic changes affecting the British and Western Palaearctic lists. British Birds 99(6): 306-323.
  • Estela, Felipe A.; Silva, John Douglas & Castillo, Luis Fernando (2005): El pelícano blanco americano (Pelecanus erythrorhynchus) en Colombia, con comentarios sobre los effectos de los huracanes en el Caribe [The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchus) in Colombia, with comments on the effects of Caribbean hurricanes]. Caldasia 27(2): 271- 275 [Spanish with English abstract]. PDF fulltext
  • Herrera, Néstor; Rivera, Roberto; Ibarra Portillo, Ricardo & Rodríguez, Wilfredo (2006): Nuevos registros para la avifauna de El Salvador. ["New records for the avifauna of El Salvador"]. Boletín de la Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología 16(2): 1-19. [Spanish with English abstract] PDF fulltext
  • Olsen, Klaus Malling & Larsson, Hans (1995): Terns of Europe and North America. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-4056-1
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena; Elbert, Samuel Hoyt; Mookini, Esther T. & Nishizawa, Yu Mapuana (1992): New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary with a Concise Grammars and Given Names in Hawaiian. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu. ISBN 0-8248-1392-8
  • Streets, Thomas H. (1877): Some Account of the Natural History of the Fanning Group of Islands. Am. Nat. 11(2): 65-72. First page image
  • Tregear, Edward (1891): Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Lyon and Blair, Wellington.
  • Army Ornithological Society: [1]

External links[edit]

- Army Ornithological Society