As August comes to a close, so too does breeding season for Hong Kong’s terns. Unlike our trip a few weeks back, there were hardly any black-naped terns to go around, but instead we found hundreds (thousands?) of breeding bridled terns, in all the glory of their breeding plumage.
Bridled terns (and black-naped terns) breed on the rocky coasts of islands in Hong Kong in large numbers. The government has designated some of these islands as tern nesting sites and prohibits entry, which hopefully deters adventurers from disturbing the nesting sites.
Additionally, we got lucky enough to spot a greater crested tern on some debris. They don’t breed in Hong Kong so they aren’t quite as gregarious as the black-naped and bridled terns found here, but they do spend the off-season here in limited numbers.
The black-naped terns (sterna sumatrana) is a member of the family of seabirds Laridae, which includes gulls, terns, skimmers, and noddies. They breed in Hong Kong primarily in August on the rocky coasts of various islands and outcrops.
The best way to see these birds is by boat—particularly by ferry, as the propeller stirs up the small fish they like to eat and so they will often follow the boat for food.
Black-naped terns are unique among terns being one of the only species aside from the snowy crowned tern that lacks a black cap for mating season.
They lay their eggs on bare rocks without nesting material and so there is a small chance that divers and fisherfolk who fish from the rocks may disturb tern nests or worse, so if you are hiking on any islands be careful of tern eggs!