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Crested Terns in Senegal, March 2022 (1 Viewer)

Ben_T

Member
Dear Birdforum users,

Here are some pictures taken in the Saloum Delta in March 2022. There are four terns on a mud bank. I was passing with a boat and I knew these birds could be difficult to ID, so I tried to snap as many pictures as I could while also observing them. At the time my first impression was of three bigger West African Terns and one Lesser Crested Tern (in the first picture that would be the third individual from the left, the only one in non-breeding plumage). However, while watching the pictures later I started having doubts about the size difference, and I thought that they might be all the same species, either all four West African Terns or all four Lesser Crested Terns.

So, I decided to ask people with experience with these birds! My thoughts right now are:

- the color of the bills in my pictures appear consistent with both species. The Helm field guide of Senegal and Gambia paints the bill of the West African in a decisive orange, but actually it is much yellower than the Royal Tern of the Americas (https://www.birdguides.com/articles/identification/orange-billed-terns-photo-id-guide/);
- The West African has going for it the overall pale color of the wings;
- The Lesser Crested has going for it the shape of the crest. Plus, West African does not retain the breeding plumage for long usually?
- Size is difficult to assess, as the only comparison is with a Goliath Heron in front of them (but they maybe look big?);
- For what concerns the shape of the bill, I do not have experience with these species - it seems about right for both of them, maybe the gonydeal angle slightly better for West African?

So, I think that the ones in breeding plumage are West African Terns, while the one in non-breeding plumage (fifth picture) is just not possible to ID.

What do you guys think?

In any case, thanks for the help, and in general thanks for being a kind community!

All the best,

Ben
 

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THE_FERN

Well-known member
I'd agree the more orange-billed ones are West African (royal) terns. The yellower billed one (5) does recall lesser crested but I'm not certain about this. Its mantle seems darker than the others to my eye; perhaps not as dark as you might expect (=ambient lighting?)
 

Ben_T

Member
I'd agree the more orange-billed ones are West African (royal) terns. The yellower billed one (5) does recall lesser crested but I'm not certain about this. Its mantle seems darker than the others to my eye; perhaps not as dark as you might expect (=ambient lighting?)
Thanks for the answer! I am getting more and more sure about the ones in pictures 3-4, 6. On the other hand, I agree with you that while the one in picture 5 looks a bit off (potentially also smaller size? plus all the things you noticed) I remain very cautious because it is only one grainy picture, with the on-site observation being brief, so I will probably not call definitely call it! Thanks again!
 

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