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Royal Tern

From Opus

T. m. maximus pair in full breeding plumagePhoto © by Robert Davis Bolivar Flats, Texas, March 2012
T. m. maximus pair in full breeding plumage
Photo © by Robert Davis
Bolivar Flats, Texas, March 2012
Thalasseus maximus

Sterna maxima


[edit] Identification

T. m. maximus in post-breeding plumagePhoto © by richard bledsoe Near La Jolla, California
T. m. maximus in post-breeding plumage
Photo © by richard bledsoe
Near La Jolla, California

Length 45–51 cm (17¾-20 in), wingspan 100-135 cm, weight 320-500 g

  • Long orange bill (variable between yellowish-orange to reddish-orange, but never black-tipped)
  • Pale grey upperparts
  • White underparts, including all except tips of primaries in underwing
  • Black legs
  • Noticeable shaggy black crest; full black crown only in spring at the start of the breeding season (February to May or June).
  • From summer to winter, the black crown recedes to leave a white forecrown
  • Juvenile mottled with pale sandy brown above

[edit] Similar Species

Juvenile T. m. maximusPhoto © by scottishdudeFort Lauderdale, Florida, March 07
Juvenile T. m. maximus
Photo © by scottishdude
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 07
  • Caspian Tern is substantially larger, with a heavy red bill with blackish tip, less shaggy crest, and primary feathers with dark undersides.
  • Lesser Crested Tern is slightly smaller and with a slimmer bill, and in close views, with a pale grey (not white) rump.
  • Elegant Tern is also slightly smaller and with a slimmer, slightly downcurved bill; it holds full black crown later into the summer (to late July to August).

[edit] Distribution

Warm temperate to tropical coasts of North America, Central America, South America, and western Africa. Resident or short-distance migrant; also dispersive, particularly northward in late summer on the Atlantic coast of North America, north to Nova Scotia, rarely even Newfoundland. Very rare vagrant to western Europe. Unlike Caspian Tern, extremely rare inland.

[edit] Taxonomy

Like other Thalasseus terns, the Royal Tern was formerly often placed in the genus Sterna.

[edit] Subspecies

T. m. albididorsalisPhoto © by Robert L JarvisThe Gambia, January 2007
T. m. albididorsalis
Photo © by Robert L Jarvis
The Gambia, January 2007

There are two subspecies:[1]

  • T. m. maximus:
  • T. m. albididorsalis:

[edit] Habitat

Coasts and islands.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Breeding

They nest in a ground scrape and lays 1-2 eggs.

[edit] Diet

They feed by plunge-diving for fish.

[edit] Vocalisation

Call: krryuk or kree-it

[edit] Reference

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved August 2016)
  3. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  4. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  5. Wikipedia

[edit] External Links


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