This bird's Latin name is 'Swallow Tern' and with its skilled flight and forked tail it is most apt. Some people think that the bigger terns are very gull-like but the very much more pointed wings and very much lighter body weight mean that the small ones are very different.
There are over 40 species of tern and this one breeds very widely in Northern temperate areas and even in the tropics. Migrants range widely South to the extremes of America, Africa and Australia but winter birds congregate in places like the Gulf of Guinea coast of West Africa. The adults in breeding plumage have black crowns and dark red bills tipped black with red legs. The calls are very varied but the characteristic alarm is 'Keee-yar'. Breeding is generally on the coast in Western Europe but they are spreading to fresh-water habitats and they breed inland over vast areas of Asia. The colonies are sometimes associated with bigger birds but many adult terns are very brave in the defence of their nests.
Over much of the World the Common Tern is the most common tern!
Length 330 mm Closed wing 270 mm Weight 125 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead