Elegant Tern: Medium tern, pale gray upperparts, white underparts may have pink tint. Black cap has shaggy crest; orange or red-orange bill is long, slightly decurved. Outermost primaries have faint black smudges. Tail deeply forked, legs are black. Hovers above water before diving.
Range and Habitat
Elegant Tern: Breeds only in five breeding colonies: three in southern California, and two in northwestern Mexico. Spends winters along the Pacific coast from central Mexico to Chile. Preferred habitats include shallow estuaries and bays.
Elegant Terns are highly social and very vocal, especially when feeding in flocks.
Unlike some of the smaller white terns, it is not very aggressive toward potential predators, relying on the sheer density of the nests and nesting close to other more aggressive species such as Heermann's Gulls to avoid predation.
After hatching, the chick stays in the nest for about a week. Then it joins a group of up to several hundred chicks called a crèche. The adults take turns guarding the crèche, standing at the perimeter of the group and herding the chicks together.
A group of elegant terns are collectively known as a "cotillion" of terns.