1509. Sterna sinensis.
The White-shafted Ternlet.
Sterna sinensis, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 608 (1788); Hume, S. F. v, p. 325; id. Cat. no. 988 bis: Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 1019; Parker, S. F. ix, p. 490 ; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 430; Oates in Hume's N. & E 2nd ed. iii, p. 312, partim ; Saunders, Cat. B. M. xxv, p. 113. ternula sinensis, Holdsworth, P. Z. S. 1872, p. 481; Legge, S. F. iii, p. 377; iv,p. 246. Sternula minuta, apud Oates, S. F. iii, p. 349 ; Wardl.-Rams. Ibis, 1877, p. 472.
Coloration. A broad arrowhead-shaped white patch on the forehead, the posterior angles running back above the eyes ; crown, nape, and broad loral band from crown to base of culmen black, including the orbit, and extending above but not beneath it, and separated beneath by a narrow white stripe from the upper mandible ; back, rump, and wings pale pearl-grey; shafts of all primaries white ; outer web of outer primary and inner web near the shaft dark grey or blackish, both primaries and secondaries with much of the inner web white, and the outer web of the secondaries near the end also bordered with white ; upper tail-coverts and tail, with the whole of the lower parts and the cheeks, white.
In winter the white forehead is broader and the tail shorter. Young birds have the crown greyish, lores mostly white, primaries dark grey, the shaft of 1st primary white, of others brownish, tail-feathers greyish. In very young birds the back-feathers, scapulars, and tertiaries are brown, with buffy-white borders and centres, the crown mixed white and black, the nape blackish with white edges.
Bill in summer yellow, broadly tipped with black; in winter dark brown ; irides brown ; legs and feet orange-yellow in summer, reddish brown in winter (Oates).
Length 10 ; tail 3.5 to 5.5, depth of fork 1.75 to 3.4 ; wing 7 ; tarsus .65 ; bill from gape 1.7.
Distribution. Ceylon, Burma, probably the east coast of India, and throughout South-eastern Asia and its islands to Japan in one direction, and Australia in another.
Habits, &c. The habits of the three small Terns found in India are similar. They are found on large rivers and tidal estuaries, on salt lagoons, and sometimes on the open coast, feeding chiefly on fish. They breed on sandbanks in rivers and on the coast, in March and April in Pegu, and from June to August in Ceylon, and lay two or three eggs, varying in colour from pale drab to brownish buff, broadly spotted and streaked, and measuring about 1.24 by .94.