A Cotillion of Terns


Least tern in Flight - Jeff Wendorff PhotographerThis time of the year the terns are on their nests and or are courting each other like crazy. The Least Terns seem to be particularly agresssive in finding a girl friend and are constantly fishing and bringing back their prize as “date bait”. Even for me that was a bad pun…  Anyway, this behavior is a lot of fun to photograph. Conditions were perfect with a strong wind slowing their flight down to a hover and so I was able to make some nice flight shots. Considering these birds are only about 5 inches long anytime you can make a flight shot you’ve had a good day!

In case you are curious about Least Terns:

  • Least terns are the smallest member of the gull and tern family.
  • They prefer sandy beaches for nesting, but will use a flat gravel roof of a building. On sunny days the hot tar showing through the gravel can burn the feet of chicks or become stuck in their down.
  • Courtship typically takes place removed from the nesting colony site, usually on an exposed tidal flat or beach.

I also found several juvenile Common Terns. You can tell by the amount of orange on the bill as well as the brown on the back.

  • The Common Tern is sometimes called the sea swallow.
  • Birds living along the coast drink salt water. They do not seek fresh water even when it is available nearby. Like many seabirds, they have nasal glands that excrete the excess salt.
  • Populations were severely depleted in late 19th century for millinery trade, but have recovered with protection.

I don’t have all of this stuff in my head, I use the fantastic iPhone app, iBird Pro and glean my trivia from the corresponding website WhatBird…HERE.

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