On Sunday morning, I was just lazily working on another post for 10,000 Birds – the (probably not much anticipated) part two of the most common birds in Shanghai. Then, I heard about the Chinese Crested Tern at Nanhui and headed for my car.

The usual bits about the Chinese Crested Tern from Wikipedia, HBW etc.: It is critically endangered, with estimates of the remaining numbers ranging from 30 to 50 in some sources, a bit more in others. It was actually feared to be extinct until 2000, when four pairs of breeding pairs were discovered. The Red List category is justified as follows: “This poorly known species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it is estimated to have a tiny population, which is in decline owing to egg-collection, disturbance and the loss of coastal wetlands”.

So it was quite exciting to see 3 of them at Nanhui, Shanghai – two adults and one chick, representing (depending on your optimistic or pessimistic estimate) maybe between 3 and 10% of the global population.

The birds had been blown in by typhoon Lekima along with a larger number of Greater Crested Tern, with which they like to associate. They are gregarious birds, and as one website about them states, “You see it’s tough being naturally sociable when there’s no-one left to hang around with”.

Can you spot the two Chinese Crested Terns among the Greater Crested Terns?


The rain stopped on Sunday morning. The terns promptly left around noon that day, presumably seeking places with fewer people and more open sea.

While Chinese Crested Terns have a lot to fear from people (see the dangers above), they can also inflict grave harm on nature writers. Or how would you rate the headline “A Tern for the Better” (Birdlife International)?

As usual, I am mostly writing as an excuse to show some photos – so here`s one more.

Written by Kai Pflug
Kai Pflug has been living in Shanghai for 20 years. He only became interested in birds in China – so he is much more familiar with birds in China than with those in Germany. While he will only ever be an average birder, he aims to be a good bird photographer and has created a website with bird photos as proof. He hopes not too many clients of his consulting company read this blog, as they will doubt his dedication to providing consulting services related to China`s chemical industry. Whenever he wants to shock other birders, he tells them his (indoor) cats can distinguish several warblers by taste.