Terns Of North America
Fourteen species of terns breed regularly in North America. The most abundant species is the common tern (Sterna hirundo), which also breeds widely in Eurasia. The breeding range of this species is from the subarctic, to the Great Lakes and temperate regions of the Atlantic coast. The common tern winters from southern parts of coastal North America through to southern South America. This tern has a black cap, a grey mantle (the back of the wings), a white breast, and a red beak with a blackish tip.
The arctic tern (S. paradisaea) is an abundant species that breeds from subarctic regions to the very limit of land in the Arctic of North America and Eurasia. It winters in the waters of the Southern Ocean. The arctic tern undertakes extraordinarily long migrations between its breeding and wintering habitats, with some populations traversing a distance of more than 22,000 mi (36,000 km) each year. Because it spends so much time in high latitudes of both hemispheres, where day length is long during the summer, the arctic tern may see more hours of daylight each year than any other creature. The arctic tern has similar coloration to the common tern, but it has an all-red beak and shorter, red legs.
Forster's tern (S. forsteri) breeds in salt and freshwater marshes of the northern prairies, and to a lesser degree along the southern coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The roseate tern (S. dougallii) is locally common along the Atlantic coast of the eastern United States and as far north as Nova Scotia. The roseate tern also breeds in coastal places in western Europe, the West Indies, Venezuela, Africa, the Indian Ocean, south and southeast Asia, Australia, and many south Pacific islands.
The royal tern (Thalasseus maximus) is a relatively large, crested species that breeds on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America, and also in Eurasia. This species winters on the coasts of south Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean.
The Caspian tern is the largest species of tern. This species breeds on large lakes and rivers and at a few places along the subarctic seacoast of North America. The Caspian tern is a wide-ranging species, also breeding in Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. This species winters along the coasts of southern California, Baha California, the Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean islands.
The black tern (Chlidonias niger) is a dark-grey locally abundant species breeding on lakes and freshwater marshes in both North America and Eurasia. North American birds winter in Central America and northern South America. The sooty tern (S. fuscata) and noddy tern (Anous stolidas) only breed in the Dry Tortugas, small U.S. islands south of West Florida.
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