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Sooty Tern

Sterna fuscata
The Sooty Tern is found throughout the world's tropical and subtropical seas. It has also come to be known as the 'wide awake' because its high pitch call often sounds like that word.

The Sooty Tern is a pelagic bird, that is, a bird that lives in open oceans and normally only come ashore to breed. It preys on small fish and squid.

The Sooty is a medium sized tern that grows to a body length of around 45 centimetres and a wingspan of up to 94 centimetres. The bird has black plumage on its neck and back, while its underside, outer wings and forked tail are white or light grey. It has a black bill and white forehead. When the bird is not breeding it tends to have more white feathers on the back of its head and upper chest.

Like other species of terns, the Sooty breeds in large colonies on sheltered parts of coral atolls and beaches, as well as on cliffs and rocks.

The size of colonies on many atolls and beaches in the Caribbean made their eggs a rich and easily procured source of food for mariners, and led to the Sooty and many other species of tern acquiring the nickname 'egg birds'.


Created: 24 March 2004

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000398

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