Royal Tern

Thalasseus maximus

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

ROYT

Code 6

THAMAX

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Royal Tern is a seabird with a total of two subspecies. Breeding grounds span across the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. One subspecies breeds on the coasts of western Africa. During winter months, the northern populations will migrate to Peru and Argentina. African populations will fly both north and south, and may fly as far as northern Spain. This species is occasionally seen in Western Europe. Breeding habitats include coasts and islands, and nests are scrapes on the ground. This bird plunges into the ocean to feed on fish. The conservation rating for the Royal Tern is Least Concern.

VOTE: ILLUSTRATION

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SUMMARY

Overview

Royal Tern: Large tern, pale gray upperparts; white face, neck, and underparts. Head has spiky, black crest and cap, and heavy, bright orange bill. Wings are black-tipped above and black-edged below; tail is deeply forked. Legs and feet are black. Hovers before plunge diving for prey.


Range and Habitat North America

Royal Tern: Breeds along coastlines from New Jersey to Florida, along the Gulf Coast to southern Mexico, and in the West Indies. It also occurs from northern California south. Spends winters from North Carolina and California southward. Prefers saltwater habitats such as coastal areas, beaches, bays, offshore areas; rarely found inland.


Range and Habitat Hawaii


Range and Habitat Palau

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INTERESTING FACTS

  • Royal Terns defecate directly on the rim of their nest, perhaps to reinforce the nest against flooding. After a few weeks, the nest rim hardens.
  • The chicks leave the nest scrape within one day after hatching and congregate together in a group known as a crèche, which can have thousands of chicks. A pair will feed only their own chick, and manage to find it in the crowd, probably by recognizing its call.
  • They feed primarily on fish rather than crab, more than any other tern. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.
  • A group of royal terns are collectively known as a "highness" of terns.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION



SONGS AND CALLS

Xeno-Canto Sound

Royal Tern C1

  • Title: Royal Tern C1
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: "Keer-reet" calls given in flight.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Royal Tern C2

  • Title: Royal Tern C2
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: High-pitched juvenile begging calls.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Royal Tern C3

  • Title: Royal Tern C3
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: Begging calls from a juvenile in flight.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Lang Elliott Sound

Royal Tern 1

  • Title: Royal Tern 1
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: "Koorrick" calls.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: FL

Royal Tern 2

  • Title: Royal Tern 2
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Calls near nest.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: FL

Royal Tern 6

  • Title: Royal Tern 6
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: High-pitched flat trill call.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: FL

Voice Text

"kee-rare"

Vocalization

Royal Tern: Gives harsh "kee-rare", similar to Caspian Tern but higher pitched.

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Artist

Yury Lisyak

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UnderpartsX

Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

CapX
The area on top of the head of the bird.
CrestX
Tufts of feathers on the head of the bird.
FaceX
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
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