Elegant Tern

Thalasseus elegans

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

ELTE

Code 6

THAELE

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Near Threatened

The Elegant Tern is currently rated as Near Threatened. This rating is due to a breeding range that has become restricted. In fact, in excess of 90% of this bird's breeding population has become restricted to a solitary island. The Elegant Tern prefers to breed on the western coasts of the United States and Mexico. The estimated population of this bird is currently no more than 90,000, with most of the population on Isla Rasa, which is located in the Gulf of Mexico. This bird was previously native to much of North and Central Americas.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Elegant Tern: Medium tern, pale gray upperparts, white underparts may have pink tint. Black cap has shaggy crest; orange or red-orange bill is long, slightly decurved. Outermost primaries have faint black smudges. Tail deeply forked, legs are black. Hovers above water before diving.


Range and Habitat

Elegant Tern: Breeds only in five known colonies: three in southern California, and two in northwestern Mexico. Many disperse northward after breeding season. Spends summers near the Baja Peninsula. Spends winters along the Pacific coast from central Mexico to Chile. Preferred habitats include shallow estuaries and bays.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

"karreck, karreck, karreck"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Elegant Terns are highly social and very vocal, especially when feeding in flocks.
  • Unlike some of the smaller white terns, it is not very aggressive toward potential predators, relying on the sheer density of the nests and nesting close to other more aggressive species such as Heermann's Gulls to avoid predation.
  • After hatching, the chick stays in the nest for about a week. Then it joins a group of up to several hundred chicks called a crèche. The adults take turns guarding the crèche, standing at the perimeter of the group and herding the chicks together.
  • A group of elegant terns are collectively known as a "cotillion" of terns.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP

CERange Map for Elegant Tern

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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UnderpartsX
Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.
UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
CapX
The area on top of the head of the bird.
PrimariesX
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X