A White or Fairy Tern spotted at The Patches probably flew from St Helena.

First confirmed record of White Tern at Tristan

Report from Peter Ryan
Emeritus Professor, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town

Photos from Natasha and Simon Glass

A Saint visits the Patches

On 1st March 2024 a White or Fairy Tern (Gygis alba) was seen perched on one of the houses at the Patches. It was quite tame, and Natasha Glass was able to photograph it with Simon’s cell phone. Later that afternoon Peter Ryan saw it briefly flying with a large flock of Antarctic Terns (Kingbirds) that were feeding on caterpillars on the pastures south of the patches. It then flew out to sea and was not seen again. Several islanders recall seeing white terns on the island before, but this is the first confirmed record of the species from Tristan. Like the Brown Noddy, the White Tern (also known as White Noddy) is a widespread tropical seabird, with populations breeding at islands in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The closest colony to Tristan is on St Helena, so it is likely that this bird had wandered south from there.

Two images of the White or Fairy Tern perched on a Patches building.

Two more images of the White or Fairy Tern.