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Old Thursday 18th August 2011, 17:11   #1
hbreder
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ID Terns, North Atlantic coast

Are these Common Terns? Their wings look awfully pale.
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Old Thursday 18th August 2011, 19:58   #2
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I would guess Forster's terns due to the orange (vs. red) bill
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Old Thursday 18th August 2011, 20:16   #3
Jan-Paul Charteris
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Look like Common to me on lack of contrast on the bill and bill structure, but that's only a feeling. I'm not too sure what would be diagnostic if anything from this angle
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Old Thursday 18th August 2011, 20:37   #4
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I'm not sure if it's the exposure which is lightening the bill base colour, but I suspect these are Forster's - bill structure looks a tad heavy for common. Not easy, though and I could readily be persuaded they are commons. Helpful, eh?
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Old Thursday 18th August 2011, 21:13   #5
Jan-Paul Charteris
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If it helps I'm pretty sure someone on one of these threads has previously pointed out a difference in cap shape (either how straight it was or how it met the bill) - if it's the latter it may be possible to draw conclusions from this photo, if the former than probably not as the cap would look straighter on a flying bird than an alert 'on the deck' bird
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Old Friday 19th August 2011, 11:36   #6
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So I am still in limbo re ID. Thanks for your inputs though!
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Old Saturday 20th August 2011, 20:38   #7
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Sometimes it is actually possible to learn something on BirdForum...
The question of adult breeding Forster's Tern versus Common Tern has come up several times before here, and a few months ago, Killian Mullarney posted some very helpful pointers not found in any field guide:
http://www.birdforum.net/attachment....9&d=1308316219

Based on this, the identification of the two terns in the photo becomes clearer, even though light conditions do not seem to be ideal. The left hand bird is definitely a Forster's; note extensive dark grey on central primaries, and white wedge on outers, almost like in a Black-headed Gull. Also, note bulging white loral area above bill base, and white underparts. I am not entirely sure of the right hand bird, but it looks more like a Common Tern to me: dark grey on the primaries is much more confined to the tips, there seem to be extensive grey blotches on belly and flanks, and the white loral area is much thinner.
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Old Sunday 21st August 2011, 13:39   #8
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Thank you so much, Smiths! You really made the difference clear to me and I agree with your conclusion.
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Old Sunday 21st August 2011, 13:57   #9
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Hilke,

When and exactly where was this taken?

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Old Saturday 27th August 2011, 15:07   #10
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This photo was taken this August. On further study I found out that the tern can't be a Forster's since in August it should being showing more white on the forehead due to molting. Very confusing isssue. There is a great essay on Birdfellow.com on this subject: http://tinyurl.com/4243har
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Old Saturday 27th August 2011, 16:30   #11
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I believe both are Common Terns. As noted, Forster's does not have a solid black cap at this season. The tail pattern looks good for Common Tern for me. I see dark outer webs on the outer rectrices. There is some shadow on the undertail, but not the gray inner web pattern which would suggest Forster's.

The underwing pattern is similar in Common and Forster's and unlike Arctic which has a much crisper trailing edge to the primaries.
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Old Saturday 27th August 2011, 18:18   #12
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While Killianīs drawing shows the main points - especially the underwing feature - I donīt think itīs enough to identify Hilkeīs terns. As Peter suggest for the left hand bird - the primaries from below seems to show the pattern described for Forsterīs but compared to the right hand bird - this is only due to the disimilar fashion the primaries are held in, which means that the left hand bird has itīs primaries more closed. The darkish trailing edge are equal in shape in both. Further, the bill size and shape in the the left hand bird is more in line with Common and the shape of the loral pattern, the bulging over the gape line would fit some Common as well. Also it looks like the outer web on the outer t-feather is dark as noted by Joseph.

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Old Saturday 27th August 2011, 19:08   #13
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This Common, not Forsterīs for obvious reasons, such as outer tail pattern, billsize and colour, has a similar loral pattern as Hilkeīs left hand bird. Also note the dark trailing pattern of the primaries.

http://www.pbase.com/gerald_r/image/47820268

For show:

http://www.pbase.com/gerald_r/image/127356244

Tail pattern and 'bulge' with cap deeper behind the eye:

http://www.pbase.com/gerald_r/image/64162645

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Old Saturday 27th August 2011, 19:19   #14
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I think that the photos are a little over exposed and lit from under the right wings which is hiding the inner wing panel of common tern.
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Old Saturday 27th August 2011, 20:00   #15
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I will have to agree: both are Common Terns. Guess the light is playing tricks on the primaries.

However, I disagree on the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmorlan View Post

The underwing pattern is similar in Common and Forster's
Here is a good illustration of how distinctive (and reminiscent of Black-headed Gull) the underwing pattern can be in Forster's:
http://www.pbase.com/garrettlau/image/44240011
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