Common Tern

The Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a circumpolar distribution, breeding in temperate and sub-Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and east and central North America. It is strongly migratory, wintering in coastal tropical and subtropical regions. It is sometimes known as the sea swallow.

This species breeds close to freshwater or seawater, in habitats such as sandy barrier beaches, vegetated sandy dune areas, or (most commonly) islands. It can adapt to artificial nesting structures. Outside of the breeding season, these birds are found on coastal estuaries or along large rivers. They can be seen in harbours and on jetties and piers.

Like all Sterna terns, the Common Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, from a height of 1-6  m, either in the sea or in freshwater lakes and large rivers. It usually dives directly, and not from the “stepped-hover” favoured by Arctic Tern. It commonly forages in flocks (though in inland populations, individuals often forage singly on in pairs). The prey fish are 5-15  cm long. Occasionally it can also take insects, crustaceans, and dead fish.

This species breeds in colonies with as few as 20 pairs and as many as 6000, on coasts and islands, or inland on suitable freshwater lakes. It prefers sites with some vegetation that will afford cover to the newly hatched chicks. When natural sites are not available, it has been known to establish colonies on dredge spoil islands, derelict piers and barges, breakwaters, and floating rafts (including rafts created as part of restoration efforts for tern colonies).

Species-S. hirundo

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