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Is it possible to identify what type of small tern or terns are the smallest birds in these pictures?  I know there were some larger birds like skimmers, Caspian terns, and laughing gulls on this mud flat, but I was not sure about the type of small terns.  Thanks for your suggestions as always!  It is from the Texas coast (Willacy County) on Saturday.

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It's still very early March, so Forster's is the only real option.

1 -- Thankfully, it looks exactly like a basic-plumaged adult Forster's.

2 -- The extensively whitish primaries rule out anything but Forster's and species that really would not be on the TX coast in early March, and the face pattern rules those out, except for that bird with the half-hood. However, it's the same size as the obvious Forster's Terns, so must be a FOTE that has begun its prealternate molt.

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Many thanks!  In the second picture where the Forster's tern is standing next to another tern with the red/black bill, is the red/black billed tern a different species or just a different age/plumage of Forster's?

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49 minutes ago, MCTX said:

Many thanks!  In the second picture where the Forster's tern is standing next to another tern with the red/black bill, is the red/black billed tern a different species or just a different age/plumage of Forster's?

Adult (breeding) Forster's have a 2-toned (orange with dark tip) bill while the immatures have all-black bills.   I think all of the 4 terns in foreground of the last photo are Forster's--one adult coming into breeding plumage (I think that is what @Tony Leukeringis describing) and the remainder immatures.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Forsters_Tern/id

 

Edited by floraphile
typo
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