Dana - Damara Tern - Sternula balaenarum

Dana is a Damara Tern. Her name means 'Leader of the Group' in the Damara language.

The Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum) is one of the smallest tern species (23 cm in length) in the world. Damara Terns breed on the coasts of Southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, South Africa). It is a near-endemic bird species in Namibia with 98% of the population breeding in Namibia. Non-breeding birds migrate north reaching as far as Liberia in the west and Mozambique in the east.


It is a pale-white tern with a pale-grey back and wings. The adults have a black cap extending from the forehead onto the nape in breeding plumage. In non-breeding plumage the adult has a white forehead and crown and a black mask going through the eyes. Immature birds are marked with buff bars across the mantle.

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The Damara Tern breeds in gravel plains in arid deserts between dunes and is also found in salt pans. Nests are scraped in the sand and gravel and sometimes lined with shell pieces or small stones. One or two eggs are incubated for about three weeks. Fledging takes another three weeks in which the parents provide food to the chick. Even after fledging the chicks are fed by the parents. It prefers sheltered bays, estuaries, lagoons and reefs to forage. It mainly eats small fish, with the occasional squid, which are caught in repeated plunge dives from a height of 3-8m. 

It is classified as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN, which means that the best available evidence indicates that the best available evidence indicates that it undergoes serious population declines or that it lives within a very restricted range and it is therefore considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. The main threats to Damara Terns are human activities such as coastal development and recreational activities. 


More information about Damara Terns can be found here and here.