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Merlin Bird ID

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    Royal Tern Life History


    Food FishFish and shrimp.Back to top


    Nest Placement

    Nest Ground

    Nest Description

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

    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.
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    Behavior Aerial Dive (water)Flies over water with bill pointing down; plunges into water to catch fish.Back to top


    Conservation Low ConcernRoyal Tern populations appear to be stable. However, there have been significant declines in Florida, where populations fell by 96% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental breeding population of 100,000-150,000 birds, rates the species a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Royal Tern is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Back to top


    Buckley, P. A. and Francine G. Buckley. 2002. Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl. 2002. Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, D.C.: Waterbird Conservation for the Americas.

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

    Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

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