of two large
white terns in our area. Larger Caspian Tern occurs only as a migrant
and winter resident in region. Royal Tern is 46-53 cm (18-21 inches)
total length. White with long, uniform orange bill. Has less black in
underwing than Caspian Tern. Royal more likely to be seen far at sea;
less likely to be seen inland. Breeding
adults have black caps, immatures and non-breeding adults have band of
dark plumage extending from eyes over the backs of their heads.
live to ages
of 27-28 years, perhaps longer. Most begin breeding at 5-6 years.
Breeding adults have shaggy black cap. Pale grey dorsal surface,
underparts white. White, deeply forked tail. Non-breeding individuals
have only black streak through eye and across nape. Tail not forked and
grey. Legs black in adults.
on wintering ground for at least first two winters. Legs light orange
to yellow. Partial black cap.
Caribbean French: Pigeon de mer, Fuquette, Mauve
Golondrina marina real
Golondrina de mar
of a number
of species of crested terns that collectively have
distribution. Two subspecies: only one in the Americas is the nominate.
The other subspecies is smaller, and breeds along the west central
coast of Africa.
throughout region, as breeding species primarily in Bahamas and US
Virgin Islands. Typically feeds inshore but can forge far at sea.
Sterna m. maxima
primarily a temperate breeder, but also nests in Central America and
West Indies Region. Breeds in coastal areas Virginia south to
Texas, eastern Mexico, northern South America and disjunct populations
from southeastern Brazil to Argentina. In Pacific: western North
from southern California through Gulf of California. In western North
Atlantic winters from Carolinas south through Guff of Mexico, Caribbean
and Atlantic coast of South America.
like most of the other white terns most commonly feeds inshore.
Primarily diurnal but some nocturnal feeding. Off North Carolina they
regularly fly 35 miles or more out to sea to hunt and then return to
barrier islands to feed their chicks, so perhaps this occurs in other
areas as well. In Gulf Stream feeds along oceanic fronts and over
feeding schools of coastal and pelagic fishes. Often seen at sea
perched on drifting boards and logs. Most references, however, consider
this to be an inshore and coastal species. Feed primarily by plunge
diving from heights of 5-10 meters. Feed on relatively large fish. Also
eat shrimp and squid.
colonial species, nest is a simple depression. Nesting in open sandy
areas often with Sandwich Terns. Breeding activity and colony formation
begins in April. Normally only one egg. Color and pattern highly
variable as used by parents to recognize their own egg. Ground color
varies from whitish to dark brown and heavily spotted usually at broad
end. Incubation period 30-31 days. Leave nest in first week and form
crèches. Young fledge in 28-35 days but young continue to be feed by
parents, following them to wintering grounds. Parent young association
continues until March.
Indies (WIBSA data)
outside West Indies
and Buckley 1984
and Webb 1995
for Western North Atlantic
et al. 2002
and Anderson 1991
conservation concern, but rare in West Indies region. Known to be
extirpated from several cays in US Virgin Islands.
protection and monitoring. Minimally signage needed to educate random
visitors to colony sites to prevent unintended harm. Surveys
additional breeding locations needed (particularly out islands of
Bahamas, Cuba and Northern coast of South America).
particularly to visitors who bring pet dogs onto nesting cays. Frequent
mortality resulting from fishing gear. Egging is a factor in many
areas. Laughing gulls puncture numerous eggs and later return to
eat the contents when parents desert nest, thus human disturbance of
nesting terns makes eggs highly vulnerable to predation.
and F. G. Buckley. 1984. Seabirds of the North and Middle Atlantic
coast of the United States: their status and conservation. Pages 101-133 in J.
P. Croxall, P. G. Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds.). Status and
Conservation of the World's Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
P. A. and F. G. Buckley. 2002. Royal Tern (Sterna maxima) in The Birds
of North America, No. 700 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.) The Birds of
North America, Inc., Philadelphia.
Chardine, J., R. D. Morris,
J. F. Parnell, and J. Pierce. Status and conservation priorities for
Laughing Gulls, Gull-billed Terns, Royal Terns and Bridled Terns in the
West Indies. Pp. 65-73. In E. A. Schreiber and D. S. Lee
and Conservation of West Indian Seabirds. Society of Caribbean
Ornithology, Special Publication Number 1. 225 pp.
Clapp, R. B.
and P. A. Buckley. 1984. Status and conservation of seabirds in the
southeastern United States. Pages
135-155 in J. P. Croxall, P. G. Evans
and R. W. Schreiber (eds). Status and Conservation of the World's
Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
Everett, W. and D.
Anderson. 1991. Status and conservation of the breeding seabirds on
offshore Pacific islands of Baja California and the Gulf of California.
Pages 115-139 in
J. P. Coxall, P. G. Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds.).
Status and Conservation of the World's Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No.
2. 778 p.
Van Halewyn, R. and R. Norton. 1984.The status and
conservation of seabirds in the Caribbean. Pages 169-222 in J.
Coxall, P. G. Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds.). Status and Conservation
of the World's Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and
northern Central America. Oxford Univ. Press, New York.
by: Dave Lee and Will Mackin
Indian Breeding Seabird Atlas by Will
Mackin and David Lee is licensed
under a Creative
Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License. Based on
work at www.wicbirds.net.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.wicbirds.net.
Citation: Lee, D. S., W. A. Mackin. 2009. Royal Tern. West Indian
Breeding Seabird Atlas
<http://www.wicbirds.net/royt.html>. Last Updated: _____.
Date accessed: ______.