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damara tern

Birds of Namibia

Introduction: Damara terns (Sterna balaenarum) are very small, fast-flying terns that rarely venture far from the coast of the Namib Desert coastline. Their preferred nesting areas are sheltered bays, shallow reefs and salt pans.

A feature of Damara terns is their highly aerial territorial displays, performed on breeding grounds and whilst foraging. Wings are raised high above the back emitting a call if on the ground and in the air they fly with their wings held higher than normal, flying at and under intruders. Not content with these demonstrations alone, a chase usually follows.

Distribution: Namib Desert coastline excluding Sperrgebeit. Ranges extend from Luderitz northwards to Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, furthering north along the Skeleton Coast reaching the Kunene River mouth.

Diet: Forages in shallow waters in saltworks and bays in the day time by rapid plunge-diving after hovering to scoop prey from surface. Eats needle fish, small mullet, small squid and anchovies off the Ugab River mouth.

Description: Balaenarum is Latin for 'pertaining to a whale', a reference to a typical observation locality such as Walvis (whale) Bay.

Breeding: Main breeding grounds are on the Namibian coast extending to the Kunene River mouth as the season progresses.

Size: 23cm. Weight: 52g.

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