Hihi volunteer needed

Date posted: 18-Oct-2018

Would you like to volunteer with the Island's hihi team and learn from them how ..

2019 Calendars now available

Date posted: 05-Sep-2018

The new 2019 calendars are now available and this year's is better than ever! Th..

Winners of kokako photo competition

Date posted: 02-Sep-2018

The stunning winning photographs from those submitted to the competition as part..

Kokako Celebration

Date posted: 21-Jul-2018


Kokako Photographic Competition

Date posted: 20-Jul-2018

KĊŒKAKO PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION Celebrating 21 years on Tiritiri Matangi To ce..

New monitoring reports published

Date posted: 19-Jul-2018

Reports on monitoring studies carried out over the past year have now been poste..

2018 Concert coming up soon

Date posted: 15-Feb-2018

Our 2018 concert will feature an afternoon of light classics and jazz courtesy of the Auckland Ph..

Wetapunga talk coming soon

Date posted: 05-Feb-2018

For the Social on 19 March the speaker will be Ben Goodwin of Auckland Zoo, who will talk about t..

Rat caught and now takahe released from pens

Date posted: 28-Jan-2018

Thankfully DOC staff Andre de Graaf and Polly Hall and their assistants have trapped the rat whic..

Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

Aka - The Grand Christmas Shopping Expedition to Tiritiri Matangi Island Shop Dreading..

Caspian Tern 

Scientific name:

 Hydroprogne caspia

Maori Name:




Conservation status

 Native, Threatened, Nationally vulnerable

National population:

1300-1400 breeding pairs


 51cm, 700g


 24 years possibly


 September - January


 Small live fish and eels

Caspian Tern and chickThe Caspian Tern is the largest of all terns, more like a gull in size. The heavy silver-grey body has white underparts with dark tips to the under wing and a short white forked tail. The massive red bill is tipped black and yellow. The adult has a black cap when breeding, which becomes flecked with white in non-breeding plumage. A slight crest at the back of the head gives it a triangular look.  The call is a loud harsh ‘kaaa’. 

Caspian terns feed mainly on small surface-swimming fish such as yellow–eyed mullet, smelt, piper, small flounder and inland species such as whitebait, bullies, trout and small eels. All are caught by plunging into the water (often fully submerging) at a steep angle from a height of 8–10 metres above the surface. 

Breeding takes place between late September and early December, usually in large loose colonies in harbours or among sand dunes.  Some pairs nest in isolation on small island beaches, shingle riverbeds or on lake shores. The nest is a shallow, unlined scrape in the sand, in which the female lays 1-3 light stone-coloured eggs with dark brown spots. Both adults incubate for 26–28 days and brood the chicks for the first 5–10 days after hatching. The chicks fledge at 33–38 days and continue to be fed by their parents for several months. 

At least one pair of Caspian terns has been known to breed regularly in the vicinity of Tiritiri Matangi. They are often seen on or around the wharf.

Discover more about Caspian terns at New Zealand Birds On-line.

Photography by Max McRae © (adult on nest) and Kay Milton © (juvenile with parent on Tiritiri Matangi wharf)

References: Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2000 The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Auckland, Viking. Moon, G The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Birds.