Word of the Day – Tuesday, December 14th

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TERN (tern)

Sea birds related to gulls but characteristically smaller and having a forked tail

Common clues: Beach bird; Gull's cousin; Little gull; Sea swallow; Cousin of a gull; Shore bird; Aquatic bird; Arctic bird; Bird with a forked tail

Crossword puzzle frequency: 4 times a year

Frequency in English language: 28705 / 86800

News: Terns nesting early

Video: Tern tries to hatch a clam

Terns are seabirds in the family Sternidae, previously considered a subfamily Sterninae of the gull family Laridae. They are less closely related to the waders, auks and skimmers. They have a worldwide distribution.

Arctic Tern at nest on the Farne Islands, Northumberland.

Most terns belong to the large genus Sterna, with the other genera being small, though some authorities split the genus Sterna into several smaller genera (see list, below).

Many terns breeding in temperate zones are long-distance migrants, and the Arctic Tern probably sees more daylight than any other creature, since it migrates from its northern breeding grounds to Antarctic waters. One Arctic Tern, ringed as a chick (not yet able to fly) on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast in eastern Britain in summer 1982, reached Melbourne, Australia in October 1982, a sea journey of over 22,000 km (14,000 miles) in just three months from fledging - an average of over 240 km per day, and one of the longest journeys ever recorded for a bird.

They are in general medium to large birds, typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. They have longish bills and webbed feet. They are lighter bodied and more streamlined than gulls, and look elegant in flight with long tails and long narrow wings. Terns in the genus Sterna have deeply forked tails, those in Chlidonias and Larosterna shallowly forked tails, while the noddies (genera Anous, Procelsterna, Gygis) have unusual 'notched wedge' shaped tails, the longest tail feathers being the middle-outer, not the central nor the outermost.

Most terns (Sterna and the noddies) hunt fish by diving, often hovering first, but the marsh terns (Chlidonias) pick insects of the surface of fresh water. Terns only glide infrequently; a few species, notably Sooty Tern, will soar high above the sea. Apart from bathing, they only rarely swim, despite having webbed feet.

Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species now known to live in excess of 25-30 years.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tern".  

TERN (207) 37 Tu+ >1 00 Sea swallow

14 Tu+ >1 08 Beach bird ERNE

14 We- >1 00 Gull relative SKUA

13 Tu+ >1 07 Gull's cousin

12 Tu >1 01 Shore bird ERNE GULL IBIS RAIL SORA

11 Tu >1 07 Gull cousin ERNE

6 Th- >1 05 Gull kin

5 Mo+ >1 01 Aquatic bird COOT GULL SWAN

5 Tu >1 04 Sea bird ERNE GULL

4 Th- >1 08 Shore flier ERNE

3 Th Rea 01 Arctic bird SKUA

3 We >1 00 Coastal bird ERNE GULL

3 We >1 07 Fork-tailed bird KITE

3 We+ >1 07 Fork-tailed flier KITE

3 Th- CSy 05 Fork-tailed gull

3 We CSy 05 Little gull

3 Tu >1 03 Shorebird ERNE GULL

2 Sa- NYT 08 Arctic ___

2 Mo >1 02 Bird on a beach

2 Tu >1 04 Bird with a forked tail

2 Fr- NYT 07 Cousin of a gull

00 Fork-tailed seabird

2 Tu- >1 00 Graceful bird KITE SWAN

2 Tu >1 06 Gull friend

2 Mo >1 04 Gull-like bird SKUA