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Pacific white tern – a bird a day

A comparison

At first glance, the Pacific white tern looks a great deal like the New Zealand fairy tern or tara iti, so the first step is to establish the differences between them.

One of my fairy tern drawings; click on the image to visit the blog post.

A small tern with pale grey upperparts, white underparts, a yellow-orange bill, and bright orange legs. A black cap covers the crown and nape extending forward to surround the eye, forming an irregular patch in front of it, but never reaching the bill; a rounded white ‘notch’ projects into the black cap above the eye and connects with the white forehead.
NZ Birds online

White tern. Adult with fish. Norfolk Island, January 2017. Image © Imogen Warren by Imogen Warren

A slender almost all-white medium-sized tern with long tapering wings, a short forked tail, and a blue-and-black bill that curves upwards to a point. The legs are black grading to bluish-grey with yellow webs on the feet and the prominent dark eyes have a small black patch surrounding them that extends towards the bill, making the eyes appear larger.
NZ Birds online​
Right, so basically, the white tern is like a fairy tern in goth makeup – all white except for exaggerated black lines around the eyes. Other than that, they seem to be structurally very similar. 

White tern. Adult in flight, ventral. Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands. Image © Gareth Rapley by Gareth Rapley


White tern. Courting pair. Norfolk Island, January 2017. Image © Imogen Warren by Imogen Warren


White tern. Adult incubating. Ducie Atoll, October 2014. Image © Tony Crocker by Tony Crocker


White tern. Egg on ‘nest’. Ducie Atoll, December 2012. Image © Tony Crocker by Tony Crocker

Time to sketch

The initial sketches are done, time to fill them out. 
At least the colouring stage isn’t arduous! I made sure that the shades of white matched the tara iti design, and that the little details like beaks and feet were the right colour, and it was sorted!
All done!

Sharif Uddin,

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