Books  Ornithology  Non-Passerines  Seabirds, Shorebirds & Wildfowl 



Series: New Naturalist Series Volume: 123

By: David Cabot(Author), Ian Nisbet(Author)

461 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour maps, tables

Harper Collins

Paperback | Jun 2013 | #191130 | ISBN-13: 9780007412488
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £34.99 $44/€39 approx
Hardback | Jun 2013 | #191129 | ISBN-13: 9780007412471
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About this book

This New Naturalist volume provides a much-anticipated overview of these fascinating birds – the first book on the natural history of British and Irish terns since 1934.

Terns are small seabirds that are commonly seen along coastlines and estuaries in the summer months – their graceful flight and command of the air are among their most attractive features.

Most of the five species of terns breeding in Britain and Ireland today are under intensive management, involving protection from predators, human interference, egg-collecting, recreational activities, land-use changes, and a range of issues concerning climate change, including rising sea levels and flooding of low-lying colonies. If these protective measures were abandoned then the numbers of terns would inevitably decline, with the possibility of several species ending up on the endangered list. Covering the history of terns in Britain and Ireland, David Cabot and Ian Nisbet explore these diverse issues as well as offering a comprehensive natural history of these stunning seabirds.

Drawing on a wealth of new information and research, the authors focus on migrations, food and feeding ecology as well as breeding biology and behaviour. Perhaps most importantly, they highlight recent conservation issues and prospects, and what this means for the future of terns.


"[...] In general, the book is informative and beautifully illustrated throughout with high-quality photographs and clear and well-labelled figures. It provides a comprehensive account of the British and Irish breeding terns, whose biology is fascinating and under-studied."
- Pat Monaghan, Ibis (2014), 156, 478–489

"This book has a misleading title, imposed by the New Naturalists (who also refer to the Antarctic Ocean in their introduction when most of us think of the Antarctic as a continent, or at least an archipelago). It is actually about the terns of Britain and Ireland and their representatives in New England, Bossidy’s ‘land of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells talk to the Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God’, with a few notes on other species and places, but no mention of such difficult subjects as monsoons and ENSOs (El Niño/Southern Oscillations).

The main text consists of a fairly full readable and accurate summary of local literature with numerous fine annotated figures but a terrible system of references, in small figures identified in a separate chapter before the real references. It is debatable whether one should any longer refer repeatedly to the Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea as having the longest bird migration now that the range of the South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki is known to extend from the South Pole nearly to the North Pole (see Brit. Birds 87: 290), doubtless kleptoparasitising terns all the way. Moreover, the authors do not deal with the tern’s distribution in the north of Britain adequately, where they show two conflicting distributions in the Northern Isles in fig. 181, or mention that the most remarkable discovery during the first census (Operation Seafarer, in 1969–70) was an immense, unprecedented concentration of tens of thousands breeding in Orkney in a sea full of boiling bait balls (I saw it), which apparently subsequently dispersed among the Northern Isles to the confusion of subsequent observers (Scottish Birds 16: 205–210, not quoted)."

- W. R. P. Bourne, 24-08-2013,


Editor's Preface   vii
Authors' Foreword and Acknowledgements   ix

1. Terns of the World   1
2. Food and Foraging   25
3. Breeding Biology   51
4. Migration   90
5. History of Terns in Britain and Ireland   103
6. Little Tern   135
7. Sandwich Tern   155
8. Common Tern   179
9. Roseate Tern   223
10. Arctic Tern   257
11. Conservation   283
12. Vagrants, Passage Migrants and Occasional Breeders   329

Appendix 1: Demography, Population Trends and the Basis for Conservation   369
Appendix 2: Research on Terns   386
Appendix 3: The Seabird Monitoring Programme   402
Appendix 4: Scientific Names of Plants and Animals Mentioned in the Text   403

Endnotes   405
References   418
Species Index   438
General Index   453

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