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..

2018 Photo Comp opens for entries

Date posted: 27-Nov-2017

The 2018 Photo Competition is now open for entries. Click here (/2018-photo-competition-tiritiri-mat..

New reports on ruru nesting and Island conservation

Date posted: 02-Oct-2017

Two new reports have been added to the website. The first gives details of a summer students..

2018 calendars now available

Date posted: 27-Sep-2017

Our latest calendar, beautifully illustrated with images taken on the Island, is now available fo..

Guided walks for photographers

Date posted: 21-Jun-2017

For a wonderful day of wildlife photography please join us on Tiritiri Matangi Island for a Ph..

Ferry discounts for Supporters

Date posted: 18-May-2017

Tiritiri Matangi Island, the perfect winter's day trip. The birds are at their best, warm up w..

More kiwi for the Island

Date posted: 04-Apr-2017

In 1993 and 1995, sixteen little spotted kiwi were released on Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ma..

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.