Volume 47, No. 2

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Nest desertion: An anti-predator strategy of the Australian Fairy Tern Sternula nereis nereis


1Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia *(
2Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia
3Conservation Council of Western Australia, Lotteries West House, 2 Delhi Street, West Perth, Western Australia 6150, Australia


GREENWELL, C.N., DUNLOP, J.N. & LONERAGAN, N.R. 2019. Nest desertion: An anti-predator strategy of the Australian Fairy Tern Sternula nereis nereis. Marine Ornithology 47: 193 - 197

Received 20 February 2019, accepted 01 May 2019

Date Published: 2019/10/15
Date Online: 2019/06/22
Key words: Egg neglect, Laridae, predation, reproductive success, Sternula


This study describes nest desertion as a probable but previously undescribed anti-predator strategy for the Australian Fairy Tern Sternula nereis nereis. Deserted nests were observed at night for up to nine nights following the laying of the first eggs at a colony in southwestern Australia. Nocturnal nest desertion may provide the terns with a mechanism for assessing the occurrence of potential nest predators, maintaining reproductive synchrony, and reducing the total time a colony is detectable by predators. Additionally, temporary diurnal nest desertion for up to 80 minutes was observed following the predation of an adult tern. Diurnal nest desertion may be used to reduce the risk of adult mortality and, consequently, decrease colony visibility, thereby increasing reproductive success.


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