Royal tern

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Project Description

Royal Tern

Sterna maxima

 

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.

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