Terns

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20 records

Terns are seabirds and have a worldwide distribution. Many terns breeding in temperate zones are long-distance migrants, and the Arctic Tern probably sees more daylight than any other creature, as it migrates from its northern breeding grounds to Antarctic waters.

They are, in general, medium to large birds, typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. They have longish bills and webbed feet. They are lighter bodied and more streamlined than gulls, and look elegant in flight with long tails and long narrow wings. Terns have deeply forked tails OR shallowly forked tails OR have unusual 'notched wedge' shaped tails. Terns ranges in size from the Least Tern [23 cm], to the Caspian Tern [21 inches].

Most terns hunt fish by diving, often hovering first, but the marsh terns pick insects of the surface of fresh water. Terns only glide infrequently; a few species, notably Sooty Tern, will soar high above the sea. Apart from bathing, they only rarely swim, despite having webbed feet.

Terns generally nest in large, densely packed colonies. Depending on the species and habitat, the nests may consist of unlined scrapes in the ground, or of flimsy collections of sticks on trees or floating vegetation. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species now known to live in excess of 25–30 years.

Records

Aleutian Tern

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Black Skimmer

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Blue-gray Noddy

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Elegant Tern

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Forster's Tern

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The Forster's Tern breeds inland in North America and winters south to the Caribbean and northern South America. This species is rare in western Europe, and has wintered in Ireland and Great Britain on a number of occasions. No European tern winters so far north.

This species breeds in colonies in marshes. It nests in a ground scrape and lays three or more eggs. Like all white terns, it is fiercely defensive of its nest and young.

The Forster's Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, but will also hawk for insects in its breeding marshes. It usually feeds from saline environments in winter. It usually dives directly. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

This is a small tern around 40 cm long with a70 cm wingspan. It is most similar to the Common Tern. It has pale grey upperparts and white underparts. Its legs are red and its bill is red, tipped with black. In winter, the forehead becomes white and a characteristic black eye-mask remains.

This species is unlikely to be confused with the Common Tern in winter because of the black eye-mask, but is much more similar in breeding plumage. Forster's has a grey centre to its white tail, and the upperwings are pure white, without the darker primary wedge of Common.

The Forster's Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, but will also hawk for insects in its breeding marshes. It usually feeds from saline environments in winter. It usually dives directly. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

Gray-backed Tern

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Gull-billed Tern

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The Gull-billed Tern is a fairly large and powerful tern, similar in size and general appearance to a Sandwich Tern, but the short thick gull-like bill, broad wings, long legs and robust body are distinctive. The summer adult has grey upper parts, white underparts, a black cap, strong black bill and black legs.

In winter, the cap is lost, and there is a dark patch through the eye like a Forster's Tern or a Mediterranean Gull. Juvenile Gull-billed Terns have a fainter mask, but otherwise look much like winter adults.

Inca Tern

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Indian River Tern

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The Indian River Tern is a bird in the tern family . It is a resident breeder along inland rivers from Iran east through Pakistan into India and Myanmar to Thailand, where it is uncommon. It does not occur in Sri Lanka. Unlike most Sterna terns, it is almost exclusively found on freshwater, rarely venturing even to tidal creeks. This species breeds from March to May in colonies in less accessible areas such as sandbanks in rivers. It nests in a ground scrape, often on bare rock or sand, and lays three greenish-grey to buff eggs, which are blotched and streaked with brown.

Indian Skimmer

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This bird has a black cap and orange bill that contrasts with the white body. With its long wings it looks tern-like and is about 40–43 cm long with a wingspan of 108 cm. The upper parts of the body are dark black and the underparts are white. The black cap on the head leaves the forehead and nape white. The wings are long and pointed with a white trailing edge. The short, forked tail is white with blackish central feathers. The long, thick bill is orange with a yellow tip and, like the other skimmers, has a lower mandible which is longer than the upper mandible. The legs and feet are red. The lower bill is knife-like and flexible and the tip appears truncated. Young birds have bills that appear normal and with age the lower mandible grows. The upper mandible is capable of considerable mobility.

Large-billed Tern

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Least Tern

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Lesser Crested Tern

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Little Tern

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The Little Tern breeds on the coasts and inland waterways of temperate and tropical Europe and Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in the subtropical and tropical oceans as far south as South Africa and Australia.

The Little Tern breeds in colonies on gravel or shingle coasts and islands. It lays two to four eggs on the ground. Like all white terns, it is defensive of its nest and young and will attack intruders.

Like most other white terns, the Little Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, usually from saline environments. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

This is a small tern, 25 cm long. It is not likely to be confused with other species, because of its size and white forehead in breeding plumage. Its thin sharp bill is yellow with a black tip and its legs are also yellow. In winter, the forehead is more extensively white, the bill is black and the legs duller.

Red-legged Kittiwake

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Royal Tern

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The Royal Tern is a seabird. It has a long yellow bill, pale grey upperparts and white underparts. Its legs are black. In winter, the black cap becomes patchy. Juvenile Royal Terns have a scaly-backed appearance.

This species breeds in colonies on coasts and islands. It nests in a ground scrape and lays one or two eggs. Like all white terns, it is fiercely defensive of its nest and young.

Royal Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, usually from saline environments. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

Sandwich Tern

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The Sandwich Tern is a seabird. It is a medium-large tern with grey upperparts, white underparts, a yellow-tipped black bill and a shaggy black crest which becomes less extensive in winter with a white crown. Young birds bear grey and brown scalloped plumage on their backs and wings. It is a vocal bird. It nests in a ground scrape and lays one to three eggs.

The Sandwich Tern feeds by plunge diving for fish, usually in marine environments, and the offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

Sooty Tern

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The sooty tern is a seabird of the tern family. It is a bird of the tropical oceans, breeding on islands throughout the equatorial zone. This is a large tern, similar in size to the Sandwich tern. The wings and deeply forked tail are long, and it has dark black upperparts and white underparts. It has black legs and bill. Juvenile Sooty Terns are scaly grey above and below. The Sooty Tern is unlikely to be confused with any tern apart from the similarly dark-backed but smaller bridled tern.

Whiskered Tern

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The size, black cap, strong bill and more positive flight recall Common or Arctic Tern, but the short, forked-looking tail and dark grey breeding plumage above and below are typically marsh tern characteristics.

The summer adult has white cheeks and red legs and bill. The crown is flecked with white in the juvenile, and the hindcrown is more uniformly blackish, though in the winter adult this too is flecked with white. The black ear-coverts are joined to the black of the hindcrown, and the space above is mottled with white, causing the black to appear as a C-shaped band. The sides of the neck are white; this sometimes continues across the nape. The collar is less sharply defined. All through the year the rump is pale grey.

In winter, the forehead becomes white and the body plumage a much paler grey. Juvenile Whiskered Terns have a ginger scaly back, and otherwise look much like winter adults. The first winter plumage is intermediate between juvenile and adult winter, with patchy ginger on the back.

Yellow-billed Tern

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