Antarctic seabirds

Two seabirds were rehabilitated at SANCCOB, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, in Cape Town, and I was asked to ring them today as they were to be released in the next day or so.

Antarctic Tern Sterna vittata

This tern had been found in Yzerfontein on 25/07/2020 – it wasn’t able to fly and the wing and tail were very worn.

The partly red bill distinguishes the winter plumaged Antarctic Tern from the similar Arctic and Common Terns which usually have black bills in winter.

This is a common winter visitor to the South African southern coast, from April to September. They roost at sea or on off-shore islands. Over 3000 have been ringed in South Africa and the oldest bird is 19y 6m (ring 50201706), having been ringed on Dyer Island and found dead on Gough Island (more longevity records here).

Antarctic Tern
Antarctic Tern


Antarctic Prion Pachyptila desolata

This prion had been found in a weakened state on 2/09/2020 in Muizenberg.

The bluish bill with medium eyebrow distinguishes it from Salvin’s Prion (weak eyebrow) and Slender-billed prion (prominent eyebrow). Some notes on identification are given in a New Zealand publication. The Antarctic Prion is the commonest prion in southern African waters, visiting from May to August with a few records in September.

The SAFRING database shows the total number of ringed birds as 1 (list), but this record is an error as this record is of a bird ringed with W80004 which is 1.8 mm in diameter, much too small for the prion (species for W80004 was given as 22, but probably should be 622, ie Bar-throated Apalis). Antarctic Prions have been ringed with rings from other schemes on subantartic islands, but the SANCCOB bird appears to be the first to be ringed in South Africa. Origins of the southern African birds is still unknown.

Antarctic Prion
Antarctic Prion


Addendum – Soft-plumaged Petrel

On 17 Sept I was back at SANCCOB to ring a Soft-plumaged Petrel that had been found at Sunset Links in Milnerton on 13/9/2020. (7 of this species have been ringed with SAFRING rings previously).

Soft-plumaged Petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel



Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.