These two photos show the value of getting multiple shots of a confusing bird, at different angles. Elegant, Black vs. White-winged, Sooty vs. Bridled, Common vs. Arctic, Common vs. Roseate, and perhaps most frequently of all, Common vs. Forster's. Well, this year I decided to do something about it and worked at trying develop confidence in identifying these species correctly. 2. Those ginger tips will eventually wear off, leaving the silvery pattern that we saw above. Forster's Tern Diving For Fish and Insects - Duration: 5:03. Which tern is it? During the mid-to-late summer, the presence of these juvenile birds greatly helps to identify the adults. The Caspian Tern's wingspan of 4.5 feet is almost twice the Common Tern's 2.5 foot wingspan, but the Caspian Tern weighs about 5 times what a Common Tern weighs. II. The Forster's Tern has a current evaluation of Least Concern. Least Tern. Conveniently, in juveniles and in non-breeding plumage, Common Terns also contain a black ‘carpal bar’ on their wings that Forster’s Terns lack. Good luck using these identification points. And then we can start working on shorebirds! The brown or ginger portions of the wing and body plumage wear away by late summer, leaving the mostly silvery late fall plumage shown above. Closeup photo shows white outer webs and dark inner webs of outer tail feathers (streamers); thus it is Forster’s without doubt. Yes, its a tern, but which one? In nonbreeding plumage they have a black comma shaped ear patch. Finally, the tail can extend considerably further than the folded wingtips of Forster’s Terns, but this is most easily seen early in the year. OK, to start us off, let’s admit that distinguishing Common and Forster’s Terns is one of the more challenging bird pair identifications. (Courtesy of David Mundy). In breeding plumage, the Common Tern has a light gray mantle and belly, a white tail, a white face, and a black cap. So what do the field guides tell us to look for on these terns? Both species will have juvenile plumage that has additional touches of brown or ginger when they are extremely young in early summer, but the diagnostic black facial patches are present throughout their first year. The population of Forster's Tern is about 120,000 individual birds. The wings appear very light, silvery gray in flight. I guess I should mention that this is in Southern California. There is also a fairly extensive black wedge at the wing tips. Their tails may be shorter too. The dark ‘carpal patch’ is somewhat visible underneath some feathers. Forster’s Tern in flight. Sorry about that. For me the bill color is somewhat debatable, but the wingtips aren’t, and using the combination of both leads to a much more reliable conclusion. The ginger color on its body and wings is on the edge of its feathers. But note the leg length; the Common Tern has shorter legs than the Forster’s, just like the field guides say. Breeding Forster's usually have a white breast, unlike Common Tern's gray breast. They dwarf the Common … © … Adult Common Tern, breeding plumage. It breeds … I used to look at the undersides of the bird…the body and wings, whereas now I focus on the upper surface of the wings. 4: Another presumed second-summer Forster’s Tern in flight, 2 June. Note that the upper wing is uniformly gray both before and after the ‘elbow’. ), or they were difficult to see (the edging on the tail feathers is seldom apparent even in good lighting, and only in flight). (3) Forget about any differences in silhouette or flight behavior; they are too subtle to be helpful. Royal vs. EXPECTED DATES: Common Tern does not usually appear in Missouri until May, although there are a few late April records. 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