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Royal Tern

Common Name Royal Tern

Scientific Name Sterna maxima

Species Birds

Family/Group Gulls and Terns



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A large, generally numerous and widespread coastal tern. Stout bill reddish orange to yellow-orange (reddest when breeding); legs usually black. Non-breeding plumage: mostly white with rearcrown and nape black (often with some white streaks), the feathers forming a bushy crest which frequently stands out from head; mantle pale gray, primaries edged blackish (visible mostly from above); tail moderately forked. For a short period at onset of breeding season enire crown is black.

Habits and Behavior

Feeds almost entirely by diving for small fish, often plunging down from considerable heights; they usually scatter out when foraging, but tend to gather in flocks when roosting at certain favored sites. Calls are shrill and sharp, a chirrik and a keeyr being most frequent.

Nicaragua Animal Guide