Forster’s Tern

Sterna forsteri

Image of a Forster's Tern perched near the water.
Image by Kevin Cole on Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0

Physical: Forster’s terns stand out as medium-sized terns, stretching roughly between 13 and 14 inches in length. They show off a wingspan that dances between 30 and 32 inches. These birds are gracefully built, with wings that seem to stretch on forever and a tail that splits into a delicate fork. When it’s breeding season, they sport a deep black cap that beautifully contrasts their light gray feathers and pure white underbelly. As the season wanes, this black cap pulls back, revealing a white head marked only by a bold black patch around the eyes. Their vibrant orange beak, tipped occasionally with black, is truly a sight to behold.

Habitat: These terns favor wet patches of the earth. They find solace in freshwater marshes, which are their breeding havens. When they’re not looking to breed, the call of saltwater marshes, serene lagoons, and the vast coastal beaches beckons them.

Feeding: When it comes to dining, Forster’s terns have a penchant for fish, though they won’t say no to a juicy shrimp or a stray marine critter that catches their eye. Watch them in action, and you’ll be mesmerized: they hover gracefully above the waters, eyes locked on their target, before plunging in a dramatic dive to snag their meal.

Breeding: Amidst the cover of dense marsh plants, these terns craft their homes, often sprinkling their nests with bits and pieces of dead plants. It’s a team effort: both mom and dad take turns keeping their 2-4 eggs warm. Once their little ones break free from their shells, it’s all hands on deck. Both parents hustle back and forth, ensuring their fledglings are well-fed and cared for.

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