Archived 2016 topics: Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum): uplist from Near Threatened to Vulnerable?

BirdLife species factsheet for Damara Tern:

Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum) breeds along the coast of southern Angola, Namibia and South Africa (Crawford & Simmons 1997, Simmons 2010, Braby 2011). A total of 70 known breeding colonies are found across its breeding range, of which 56 colonies (87% to 93% of the breeding population) occur in the expansive Namib Desert coastline of Namibia.

Since 2004, Damara Tern has been considered Near Threatened based on the moderately small population of 13,500 mature individuals estimated by Simmons et al. (1998). However, a more recent comprehensive review of the species’ population status estimates the global population to number up to 5,730 breeding individuals (Braby 2011). Although it has been suggested that Simmons et al. (1998) may have overestimated the number of mature individuals, the continuing demand on Namibia’s beaches by off-road vehicles, the diamond mining and the residential development is currently impacting the population (three colonies extinct and six declining) and will probably impact most colonies in the future (Red Data Book for Namibia, 2015).

In such a context, the updated global population of <10,000 individuals, inferred to be undergoing a continuing population decline and assumed to form a single subpopulation, appear to fulfil the IUCN criteria for the Damara Tern to be uplisted to Vulnerable under criterion C2a(ii).

Any comments on the proposed uplisting are welcome.


Braby J. 2011. The conservation and biology of the Damara Tern in Namibia. PhD Thesis, University of Cape Town.

Crawford, R.J.M & Simmons, R.E. (1997) Damara Tern Sterna balaenarum. In: Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds) The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 1 : Non-passerines: 480-481. Birdlife South Africa, Johannesburg

Simmons, R. E.; Cordes, I.; Braby, R. 1998. Latitudinal trends, population size and habitat preferences of the Damara Tern Sterna balaenarum on Namibia’s desert coast. Ibis 140: 439-445.

Simmons, R. E. 2010. First breeding records for Damara Terns and density of other shorebirds along Angola’s Namib Desert coast. Ostrich 81(1): 19-23.

Simmons R.E.; Braby R.J.; Braby S.J. (2015). Red Data Book for Namibia. Damara Tern, Sternula balaenarum (Sterna balaenarum). 91-95.

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3 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum): uplist from Near Threatened to Vulnerable?

  1. R. Braby says:

    Thank you! The bird needs some support!
    Political pressure from high ranking politicians rubbishing conservation efforts and the bird in the Erongo Region in Namibia is disturbing if it gains traction from the poverty stricken seeking jobs in the short term building boom requesting exclusive housing, golf course and convention centre at Caution Reef Damara Tern Breeding area (an IUCN category 1a zone in the Dorob National Park) .

  2. Robert Crawford says:

    The Damara Tern is Critically Endangered in South Africa (Simmons R.E. 2015. Damara Tern. In: Taylor MR, Wanless RM, Peacock F (eds) The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg, pp 52–54). To my knowledge there has not been recent confirmation of breeding breeding in South Africa at sites west of Cape Agulhas where former breeding was known. I support the motivation above to uplist the global population to Vulnerable.

  3. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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