Tern banding

Tern studies have been an integral part of the VWSG’s activities since the group’s early days, even though the group’s name does not include them. The official approved Banding Project does however mention waders and tern equally.

The VWSG has primarily focused on catching of Crested and Caspian Terns, particularly at breeding colonies. Other species such as Whiskered Tern, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Common Tern are only occasionally captured and are not targets for ongoing monitoring. Analysis of the Crested Tern dataset is underway by researchers at Deakin University. This is finding results like a strong annual adult survival rates and essentially a strong and robust population, as well as fascinating movements registered by this species beyond their local areas.

crested tern mud islands
Crested tern breeding colony on Mud Islands in Port Phillip Bay. Photo: Roger Standen

Some terns have also been orange leg-flagged, and even Little Terns have been individually leg-flagged with various colour combinations involving three flags. Crested Tern chicks on Mud Island have had ABBBS metal bands powdercoated different colours for different years.

Powdercoating of Mud Island Crested Tern bands

Preparation of bands

Frames to hold the bands were constructed by welding iron together into a rectangular frame. The individual wire’s on each frame specifically have been made specifically to hold Crested Tern band (size 7). Bands are manually placed onto ten frames, which contain individual wire’s for each band to be suspended from. Each frame holds 100 bands so a total of 1000 bands are powdercoated annually.

Powdercoating Process

The automated powdercoating procedure features a 7 stage zinc phosphate pretreatment system that allows coating of various base metals. The bands are then dried off for eight minutes at 230°C. A polyester powder is then applied of whatever commercially available colour. The powder used for the process is a mixture of finely ground particle of pigment additives and resins’, which is electrostatically applied (or perhaps better described as being “fogged”) onto the surface to be coated. The charged powder particles adhere to the electrically grounded surfaces until heated and fused into a smooth coating which cures for a total of 20 minutes. The result is a uniform, durable, high quality, and attractive finish.


The standard durability of the polyester exterior formulation is:

  • 2 hours, Water Immersion at 40°C
  • 240 hours, 98% Humidity at 40°C
  • 240 hours, Neutral Salt Spray per ASTM B117.

The table below provides a summary of Crested Tern bands powdercoated, colour and year applied.

YearColour appliedNo. of bands powdercoated