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Common Tern

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Common Terns fly buoyantly along the shoreline and rivers, using their long, pointed wings to make graceful turns, hover and plunge headlong into the water in pursuit of small fish.

mmon Tern
STERNA HIRUNDO
• Length: 12 inches
• Wingspan: 30 inches
• Season: Winter
More about Common Terns.
Where they are, and when.

During breeding season, they have red bills with a black tip, orange legs and black crowns that extend over their eyes. The rest of the year their legs and bills are black and their crown retreats on their forehead like a receding hairline.

Common Terns are most similar to Forster’s Terns. The defining difference is the color of the outer edge underneath the wing, which is pale on the Forster’s Tern and a dark gray on the Common Tern. In addition, the Forster’s Tern’s bill during breeding season is more orange than red, and its black crown becomes an eye patch in the off season.

They are largely migratory and winter visitors to the Upper Texas Gulf Coast and appear on beaches, by rivers and ponds and other waterways. In addition to small fish they may feed on crustaceans and insects. They drink while in flight by raising their wings and dipping their bills into the water.

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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