Chinese Crested Tern is the rarest wanderer in the world

[Baca dalam bahasa Indonesia]

This article originally from Mongabay was translated by EAAFP Secretariat.

Although at a glance the Chinese Crested Tern (Thalasseus bersnteini) is similar to the Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii), the yellow tip at the black end of the yellow bill identifies it as one of the rarest birds in the world. According to BirdLife International, there are only 50 individuals left in the world.

As the name Chinese Crested Tern indicates, this species breeds in China. However, every winter (October to April), this bird wanders down to Manila, Sarawak, and Halmahera and Seram Island in the Maluku.


Chinese Crested Tern (Thalasseus bersnteini), the wanderer rare birds that are endangered. Photo: Chen Shuihua/ Burung Indonesia

Chinese Crested Tern is a seabird of the Sternidae (tern) family, related to gulls. Their body is 43 cm long, with a black crest. They have a long, yellowish orange bill, greyish white wings and a generally white body.

“This bird was first recorded in Indonesia on November 22, 1861 in Kao, North Halmahera,” said Jihad, Bird Conservation Officer of Burung Indonesia. However, it didn’t come back for more than a hundred years.

That is until 2010, when a bird observer saw a Chinese Crested Tern perched on a rock on Lusaolate Island, near Seram, Maluku. Four years later, on November 2014, a Chinese Crested Tern returned to the same waters among a group of Greater Crested Terns.

The appearance of Chinese Crested Tern is good news because it is a Critically Endangered species. The main threat for this species is that people take their eggs as well as the damage to coastal wetlands. Lusaolate is the only recorded wintering area for the Chinese Crested Tern.

Outside Indonesia, this species is found near Matsu Island, in offshore areas of Fujian Province, China, which is under Taiwanese management. The territorial dispute over this island has led to military sensitivity, limiting public and civil access. The island itself has been declared as an area for wildlife conservation.

To monitor this species, especially in the wintering areas, this summer BirdLife Asia will mark the legs of both Chinese Crested Terns and Greater Crested Terns with red flags.


The original article written in Indonesian is available here at

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