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Royal Tern

Thalasseus maximus ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large, orange-billed tern, the Royal Tern is found only along ocean beaches.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
17.7–19.7 in
45–50 cm
Wingspan
49.2–53.1 in
125–135 cm
Weight
12.3–15.9 oz
350–450 g
Other Names
  • Sterne royale (French)
  • Charrán real, Gaviota real, Gaviotin real, Golondrina-marina real, Golondrina Tirra canalera, Pagaza real (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Royal Tern makes its nest scrape on the ground on low-lying islands. The pair defecates directly on the nest rim, perhaps to reinforce the nest against flooding. After a few weeks, the nest rim hardens.
  • Young Royal Terns leave the nest scrape within one day after hatching and congregate together in a group known as a crèche. Eventually all of the chicks in a colony come to the crèche, which can have thousands of chicks ranging in age from two to 35 days old. A pair of Royal Terns will feed only their own chick, and manage to find it in the crowd, probably by recognizing its call.

Habitat


Shore-line

Food


Fish

Fish and shrimp.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Egg Description
Whitish to brown, heavily spotted around large end.
Condition at Hatching
Eyes open. Covered with down and able to leave nest within one day.
Nest Description

A scrape in ground. Nesting colonies occur on island beaches.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Aerial Dive

Flies over water with bill pointing down; plunges into water to catch fish.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

United States population appears stable.

Credits

  • Buckley, P. A., and F. G. Buckley. 2002. Royal Tern (Sterna maxima). In The Birds of North America, No. 700 (A. Poole and F. Gill,eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Royal Tern Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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