TN29 Lesser Crested Terns in Libya


A short conversation with Abdulmoula Hamza looking at a ringing/banding scheme in Libya which aims to discover where the Mediterranean’s only breeding Lesser Crested Terns Sterna bengalensis emigrata are wintering, and a request to report all sightings of ringed birds.


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Show Notes

During the recording of a podcast on March 28th ‘Conference Calls’ panel regular John Hague made a reference to the Lesser Crested Tern – a species which breeds predominantly from the Red Sea eastwards to Australia – and mentioned that there was a distinct outlying population breeding in Libya.

I admitted (as I so often have to do) that I knew next to nothing about these birds, and in one of those happy coincidences that makes working on the internet so rewarding one of our listeners, James Spencer, emailed to say that he is working at Hull University with Abdulmaula Hamza (photo left), a PhD student at Hull University who has been coordinating the Lesser Crested Tern ringing/banding scheme in Libya since 2007.

The Libyan Lesser Crested Terns are the only ones breeding in the Mediterranean. Found in three discrete colonies no-one knows where these birds winter, and the aim of the ringing scheme is to find out where in West Africa (the suspected wintering area for the majority of birds) the birds are going: it would then be possible to initiate conservation efforts to protect them.

Abdul is asking all birders travelling to the area to keep an eye out for ringed Lesser Crested Terns and pass back any information to him at and to Nicola Baccetti at

It’s a fascinating story, not least because the political situation in Libya is of course very unsettled and a new threat has potentially emerged – the possible bombing of an island holding one of the colonies for ‘target practice’…


Photos copyright Abdulmaula Hamza and used with permission

Ringed Lesser Crested Tern (with Sandwich Tern behind)

The following information on the rings used on the Libyan terns is taken from the European colour-ring Birding website maintained by Dirk Raes:

  • 06090 – Lesser Crested Tern – Sterna bengalensis.

    White ring with 3 black digits (letter + number + number) (*)

    White ring with 2 or 3 letters (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010).

    Black ring with 2 or 3 letters (2008 and 2010).

    Nicola Baccetti, INFS, via Ca’ Fornacetta 9, 40064 Ozzano Emilia BO – Italy.

    fax: +39-51-79.66.28.


    note 1 : used letters are A,B,C,D,F,H,J,K,L,N,P,S,T,V,Z.

    note 2 : colour ring is usually on the right and (Maltese) metal ring on the left leg for the 2007 chicks, vice versa for the 2008 chicks.

    note 3 : 311 chicks were marked in August 2007 and 2008 on all 3 colonies of Eastern Libya. Project by Environment General Authority of Libya (EGA) and Regional Activities Centre / Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan, Tunis, with the collaboration of BirdLife Malta, INFS Italy and ONCFS France.

    note 4 : For the third year in August 2010, 215 chicks of Lesser-crested Terns have been ringed in Libya by an international team led by Environmental General Authority (EGA – Tripoli) and Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA – Tunis).

    note (*) : Libyan ringed bird will carry these rings/codes : rings would be White coded : AAA to ZZZ (3375 combinations of 15 letters.




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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

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