Common Tern: Medium tern, medium gray upperparts, pale gray underparts, glossy black cap and nape. Wings are dark-tipped and have dark leading edge on forewing. Red bill is black-tipped. Legs are red and tail is deeply forked and elongated. Direct flight, hovers above water before diving for prey.
Range and Habitat
Common Tern: Breeds in North America along the Atlantic coast from the northern Maritime Provinces of Canada to South Carolina, and occasionally in the Gulf of Mexico or on large inland lakes. Spends winters from southernmost breeding areas on the Atlantic coast to northern Ecuador and Brazil. Preferred habitats include sand and shell beaches, grassy uplands, and rocky inland shores.
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.
The Common Tern is sometimes called the sea swallow.
A group of common terns are collectively known as a "committee" of terns.