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Swift tern

Birds of Namibia

Introduction: Swift terns (Sterna bergii) are named after the Prussian botanist and pharmacist Carl Heinrich Bergius (1790-1818) who is credited with collecting the first specimen near Cape Town. Habitats include lagoons, estuaries, exposed ocean beaches and marine environments near the shoreline. Found solitary or in flocks of a few hundred usually mixing with gulls or other terns at saltworks, roosting on poles.

Distribution: Widespread along the Namibian coastline including from the Orange River to the Kunene River estuaries including Luderitz, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast.

Diet: Forages on the continental shelf usually within sight of land by plunge-diving or dipping for shoaling fish such as anchovies and sardines as well as hake, insects and crustaceans.

Description: Distinctive black cap formed by black upper forehead, crown and nape which covers the eyes, separated from the bill by a narrow white frons.

Breeding: Pairs bond throughout the year. Nests are a shallow scrape in the sand on flat, open ground. Usually unlined but bones of cuttlefish and stones are sometimes used for extra protection. Only 1 or sometimes 2 eggs are laid from February to September with an incubation period of some 20 to 30 days.

Size: 50cm. Weight: 390g. Wingspan: 110cm.

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