Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
The common tern is 12-15 inches in length with a wingspan of 30-31 inches. It has a white breast and undersides and a slate gray back and upperwings. It has a black cap on its head and orange-red legs and feet. It has a pointed, bright orange bill with a black tip and a forked tail. Males and females look alike.
The common tern breeds
from Alberta, Canada east to Labrador, Canada and south to Montana, the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast. It winters from Florida south to
the Caribbean and South America.
The common tern is also found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
The common tern is found on islands, marshes, lakes, ponds, rivers, and beaches.
The common tern nests in colonies. The male selects a breeding territory and protects it. He courts a female by bringing her a fish! The male mates with only one female. The nest is a pile of dead vegetation placed on sandy or rocky beaches or on rocky ground. The female lays 1-4 eggs, and the male and the female incubate the eggs for 20-26 days. Both parents care for and feed the chicks and aggressively protect them from predators by diving at intruders and striking them with their bills The chicks fledge when they are 27-30 days old. The common tern mates when it is three years old.
The common tern population has been declining due to habitat loss and nest disturbance. Their nests are often difficult to see on beaches and their eggs can be easily destroyed by people stepping on the them. The common tern is a threatened species in New Hampshire.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Paul Driver