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Merlin Bird ID

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    Common Tern

    Silhouette TernsTerns

    Common Tern

    Sterna hirundo
    • ORDER: Charadriiformes
    • FAMILY: Laridae
    Basic Description

    Common Terns gracefully row through the sky showing off their long angular wings, and breeding season gray belly, black cap, and red bill. They dive towards the water picking off fish just below the surface. The Common Tern is the most widespread tern in North America, spending its winters as far south as Argentina and Chile. They are social birds, foraging in groups and nesting on the ground in colonies.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Common TernRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Like other terns, Common Terns aren't shy. They boisterously fly over open waters and rest out in the open, often perching on shorelines, boats, and piers. But Common Terns aren't just a coastal bird, they can also be found inland on freshwater lakes during the summer months, though they stick to coastal saltwater areas more frequently than similar-looking Forster's Terns. Although they tend to be rather obvious, they do hide among other similar looking terns.

    Other Names
    • Charrán Común (Spanish)
    • Sterne pierregarin (French)
    • Cool Facts