of the Day
Clue of the Month
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
4 times a year
in English language:
28705 / 86800
Tips: Arctic Terns prepare for 12,000-mile journey north
tries to hatch a clam
are seabirds in the family Sternidae, previously considered a
of the gull family
Laridae. They are less closely related to the waders, auks and
skimmers. They have a worldwide distribution.
Tern at nest on the Farne Islands, Northumberland.
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).
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.
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
tails, while the noddies
have unusual 'notched wedge' shaped tails, the longest tail
feathers being the middle-outer, not the central nor the
and the noddies) hunt
fish by diving, often hovering first, but the marsh terns
pick insects off 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.
are generally long-lived birds, with several species now known to
live in excess of 25-30 years.
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