14 December 2014

A dark White-winged Tern – Sabkhat Al Fasl

When birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Phil and I found a very dark White-winged Tern. We see many White-winged Terns during the year at this site, including a number on the same day as this one, but none of them have approached this bird for darkness. The dark colouration made the bird look superficially like a Black Tern but many of the features of Black Tern where not present such as the normally obvious breast patch. Structurally the bird looked like a White-winged Tern but it’s wing length looked shorter and rounder compared to a nearby White-winged Tern but this may have been due to the dark colouration? Other features pointing towards White-winged Tern included square-tipped tail with paler outer tail feathers, head pattern and a short bill in comparison to Black Tern. We left the site happy the bird was a White-winged Tern, but I did not have any Tern guides with me in Saudi Arabia so I sent the photos to Jan Jorgensen for confirmation and would like to thank him for his comments on this bird.