A mid-sized, streamlined, narrow-winged, white and gray tern with a black crown and crest and a long drooping orange bill. Underparts are entirely white in all plumages and age classes. Legs are black in adults and yellow in juveniles. Sexes are similar. Alternate Adult has light gray wings and back, short white tail with a shallow fork. Crown is entirely black from the base of the bill to the hindcrown, where it extends into a shaggy crest. Long orange bill is thin at the base and curves downward slightly near the tip. Basic Adult: Forehead and front half of the crown white. Black on head surrounds the eye and covers back half of the head above and behind the eye. Juvenile: Similar to basic adult has faint pale scalloping on back and yellow bill that is slightly shorter and straighter than adult bill. Very similar Royal Tern is larger, broader-winged, and has a thicker-based bill that lacks the noticeable droop at the tip. In basic plumages, Royal Tern shows more extensive white on the crown, a shorter crest extension, and there is pale break between the eye and the black on the head. Dark area on upper wingtip is darker and more extensive on Royal Tern.
Length: 43 (cm) Wingspan: 86 (cm)
Harsh, grating notes; juvenile has high whistles.
Beaches, estuaries, jetties, islands, open ocean, and other coastal areas.
Often in flocks. Breeds colonially; nest is a scrape in sand.
Plunge-dives into water to catch fish.
The scalloping on the coverts and other upperparts feathers of juvenile Elegant Terns is duskier than the balance of the plumage, similar in effect to young Caspian Tern. Like that species, ad. Elegant Terns present n. of the breeding range along the West Coast May-Sep are sometimes seen provisioning their semi-dependent young with fish. The adults' calls are audible up to a kilometer away in calm air; it sounds as if they're calling the name of a late Beat novelist: "Kerouac, Kerouac."
Citation: Personal Experience. I observe this regularly, highly confident.
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|David Fix added a note to Elegant Tern Notes||7/09/2011 at 7:52PM|