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Royal Tern?

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Relatively new to birding, totally new to this site, and new to birds along the coast.

- See photos, some better than others, but these are all the same bird and we only saw the one bird total (of this species). We saw it take two runs around the tidal pond on the Chesapeake bay at Flag Ponds Park in Calvert County, Maryland. Each flight ending in it diving into the water for food. At first I was leaning toward calling this a Common Tern, in part based on the darker gray at wingtips, but it does not all seem to fit. In particular, this bird seems to have a large, somewhat chunky orange bill, which points (me) toward a Royal Tern. And I think I see tufts of feathers as part of its cap. Based on the cap being kind of splotchy black, it appears to be  non breeding adult. Royal Terns are common at this location (based on bird hotspot info), while Common Tern is not common so I would like to get it correct (want to get it correct anyway!).

- seen 09/15/2019 in the middle of the day. 

Thanks for any help!









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Welcome to Whatbird!

You got it right on target! This is a nonbreeding adult Royal Tern. 

  • Breeding: Adults are large, have pointed wings, a full black, shaggy crest, a bright, heavy orange bill, and a long forked tail.
    • Caspians have heavier, redder bills with black tips, are bigger overall, and have darker primaries.
    • Elegants have a thinner, longer bill.
    • Common/Forster’s are smaller, have a thinner, shorter, dark-tipped bill, and have orange (not black) legs.
  • Nonbreeding: Similar to breeding but have a narrow shaggy black band (not a full crest) at the back of the head.
    • Caspians have a heavier, dark-tipped bill with a fuller black crown.
    • Elegants have a longer, thinner bill and wider black crest patch.
    • Common/Forster's are smaller and have a blacker, thinner bill.
Edited by akandula
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