Range/Geographical Distribution: North and South America as well as along the west coast of Africa.
Habitat: Along bays, lagoons, estuaries, saltmarshes, and mangroves.
Similar Species: Forester’s tern, ring-billed gull, laughing gull, and herring gull.
Description: A large tern with gray wings, dark wing tips, and forked tail. Orange bill, white forehead, and partial black cap. Some adults may have a full black cap during breeding season.
Size: Length: 17-20” Wingspan: 49-53” Weight: 350-450g
Food: Fish, squid, and small crustaceans.
Breeding: Nests in colonies on island beaches. Lays a single white/brown spotted egg on a scrape on the ground.
Predators: Adults have few predators but eggs and chicks are vulnerable to gulls, raccoons, dogs, cats, and rats.
Conservation Status: The royal tern is listed as least concern by IUCN.
Interesting Facts: Juvenile terns stay with their parents for up to eight months after hatching, an unusually long period of bird parental care.
On the Coast: Royal terns may be seen along Georgia’s coastal waters diving from above in order to catch fish.