A distinctive coastal bird of Eastern and Southern North America. Adult is tern-like, with long wings, short legs, and short neck. Back and wings are black, underparts white. Head is white with black cap and, in alternate plumage, black nape. Unique bill is long and relatively thick vertically, while extremely thin laterally. It is mostly red with a black tip, with the lower mandible much longer than the upper. Legs are red. Juvenile's wings and back are patterned brown, black, and white. Sexes are similarly plumaged, though male is larger.
Length: 46 (cm) Wingspan: 112 (cm)
Short, low-pitched barks.
Coastal: beaches, bays, estuaries.
Scrapes gravel or sand to form nest. Breeds colonially, often with terns. Flight is graceful, with deep wing beats.
Flies along water's surface with bill open, dragging elongated lower mandible through water. When it strikes a fish or other edible creature, the bill snaps closed in mid-flight.
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