Common tern

Species profile

Name: the common tern (Sterna hirundo) is a seabird in the tern family.

Appearance: common terns have light grey upper parts with white underneath. They have distinctive black caps on their heads, orange-red legs, and narrow pointed bills. The bills can range from red with a black tip to all black.

Size: they typically measure around 35 cm long, with a 1 m wingspan and a weight of around 140 grams.

Diet: common terns feed by plunge-diving for fish in sea or freshwater. As well as fish they also catch molluscs, crustaceans, and invertebrates.

Did you know: these striking birds are extremely agile flyers, capable of rapid turns and swoops, hovering, and even vertical take-offs! Each year they undertake a long migration to their breeding grounds, reaching speeds of up to 54 km per hour. During courtship, pairs of terns fly in wide circles calling at each other before descending together in a zig-zag glide. Once on the ground,  the male circles the female with his tail and neck raised, head pointing down, and wings open.

Location: common terns are found across the temperate and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. They nest on pretty much any flat or poorly vegetated surface close to a water body, including beaches and islands and even floating rafts.

Where to see common terns

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see common terns in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Isle of Sheppey
England
33%
low
3.7
good
3
reports
Sevenoaks
England
16%
very low
3.3
good
31
reports

Photo credit: detillybert under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay

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