Royal Tern Identification

Looking for ID Help?

Get Instant ID help for 650+ North American birds.

Try Merlin Bird ID

Adult Description

  • Large tern.
  • Slender orange bill (from yellow to reddish).
  • Short, forked tail.
  • Black in a narrow, shaggy band around back of head; forehead white. (Complete black cap held only briefly during breeding.)
  • Mostly white all over, with some dark in wingtips.

Immature Description

Juvenile similar to nonbreeding adult, but bill smaller and pale yellow, back with variable amounts of dark spotting, and wingtips darker.
Relative Size

Relative Sizecrow sizedcrow-sized
  • Both Sexes
    • Length: 17.7-19.7 in (45-50 cm)
    • Weight: 12.3-15.9 oz (350-450 g)
    • Wingspan: 49.2-53.1 in (125-135 cm)