26 Dec 2011

Nesting Terns on the Saudi Arabian Gulf Coral Islands

The Terns that commonly nest on the Arabian Gulf Coral Islands are listed below with the commonest first and the scarcest last.

Bridled Tern (Adult breeding)

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) is a summer visitor from March or April until September or October and is widely distributed through the Arabian Gulf. It prefers islands with fairly dense vegetation that can provide nesting cover, though sometimes it breeds in cavities on rocky slopes/ It nests on Juraid, Jana, Karan and Kurain Islands offshore Jubail where it has an even nest distribution covering the entire well vegetated sections containing Suaeda vermiculata and Salsola baryosma bushes. An internationally important percentage of the world population breed in the Arabian Gulf with more than 34,000 pairs breeding each year. It is the most common of the four main Arabian Gulf Island breeding Terns, with the six Gulf Coral Islands being among the five most important breeding sites for the species in the world.

Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) is a summer visitor from March or April until September or October, with a few hundred birds remaining throughout the winter. It is widely distributed as a breeding species throughout the Arabian Gulf. It breeds in large colonies on the islands of Juraid, Jana, Kurain, Harqus and Karan where it nests in dense and very localized colonies on the bare ground. In the past the species has nested on Arabiya. An internationally important percentage of the world population breed in the Arabian Gulf with more than 20,000 pairs breeding on the Coral Islands, which are the largest know breeding colonies in the world.

White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa) is a summer visitor from March or April until September or October with a few birds remaining throughout the winter. They occur throughout the Arabian Gulf and are probably the most widely distributed Tern in the region, breeding in colonies of varying size not only on islands but also, where undisturbed, on sand-spits and mainland beaches. They breed regularly on Juarid, Jana & Karan Islands where more than 10,000 pairs breed in small colonies spread over the islands in areas of scattered vegetation and low annual plants such as Mesembryanthemum nudiflorum. The Saudi Arabian breeding population is of considerable importance as the species has a very limited world distribution, being confined to the seas of around the Arabian Peninsula.

Swift Tern (Thalasseus bergii) is almost as large as Caspian Tern and breeds off the coasts of Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. They breed on Harqus, Kurain, Karan and Jana Islands with the largest numbers on Harqus and Kurain where they breed in large, dense, very localized colonies on bare ground. Of the four main island breeding species of Terns they are the least common but still number more than 3500 breeding pairs each year.

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