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Caspian Tern

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Caspian Terns are bulkier than their cousins and more akin to a gull. They soar high above beaches, lakes and rivers scouting for fish and often dive completely underwater in their pursuit. And they’re not past chasing other birds and stealing their fish.
Caspian Tern
STERNA CASPIA
• Length: 21 inches
• Wingspan: 50 inches
• Season: Year-round
More about Caspian Terns.
Where they are, and when.

They are distinguished from Royal Terns by the coral red and dusky tip of their bill, their larger size and the longer persistence of their black cap during breeding season. Common Terns are much smaller and have orange legs during breeding season, while the Caspian’s legs remain black.

Caspian Terns nest both alone and in colonies – in depressions on sandy beaches lined with grass and seaweed or in inland marshes. They generally have two or three pink eggs with dark markings.

Even when in colonies, they vigorously defend their nesting territory. It’s not just a show – they will chase down and physically assault predatory birds and people who get too close.

July 11, 2008

The tern came at me from quite a distance across the mudflat near Mustang Island in Corpus Christi. I looked around to see what was provoking it, but other than a couple of weeds, I was the only thing on the wide flat. It flew low and hard and straight at me. I saw anger in its face, or at least its bright red beak made it seem that way. I ducked as it grazed my head and then went around for another pass. I assume it was nesting and had young, but why I was such a threat from that great a distance, I don’t know. I’ve had birds scream at me and make close passes before, but nothing like this. It was very effective.

About Scott Clark

I’m a digital journalist who’s worked as a photographer, reporter, producer and editor. My interest in the natural history of my surroundings reaches back to my early days beachcombing on the Jersey coast, rowing my boat on a quiet lake in Missouri and, more recently, discovering the mountains and backwoods of Montana, where I was born.

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