(2090) Sterna albifrons praetermissa.
THE MESPOTAMIAN TERNLET.
Sterna albifrons praetermissa Stuart Baker, Bull. B. O. C., lxix, p. 49 (1928) (Mesopotamia). Sterna minuta. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 321 (part.).
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. In this race the shafts of the first two, sometimes three, primaries are dark brown, whilst the rump, upper tail-coverts and tail are grey, almost concolorous with the back; the bill is very slender and small. It is very close to S. s. pusilla but the latter has the shaft of the first primary distinctly paler and the rump a paler grey.
Colours of soft parts as in the other races.
Measurements. Wing 160 to 174 mm.; culmen 26 to 28 mm., average 27.0 mm.; very slender.
Distribution. Mesopotamia, the islands of the Persian Gulf and the marshes on the Northern Mekran coast.
Nidification. Ludlow found this little Tern breeding in colonies on the Sonmeani Bheel in June, whilst Pitman found several colonies in Mesopotamia in the Euphrates marshes during the same month. Ticehurst also says that they breed in many places from Tekrit to Fao. Some of the nest-scrapes were made in vegetation growing in the marshy land but others were in the bare mud on the edges of flooded areas. The eggs differ much from those of the other Ternlets in their deep coloration and also in the fact that the ground-colour is frequently very blue-green. They are also decidedly smaller, twenty-eight eggs averaging 31.9 x 23.2 mm.: maxima 33.0 X 24.0 mm.; minima 27.9 x 22.0 mm. Cox also found this little Tern breeding on the islands in the Persian Gulf.
Habits. Apparently this Ternlet is a resident bird, moving lorally, according to food conditions, over the greater part of Mesopotamia. In flight, voice etc. it is not distinguishable from the European Ternlet.