Terns are often easily confused with gulls. Both terns and gulls are sea birds which are usually found along the coastlines of most countries. Both types of bird are largely white with long bills and similar black markings. A first time observer of a tern could easily be forgiven for confusing one of these birds for a gull. There are some fundamental differences between gulls and terns, though.
Terns are generally smaller than gulls with sharply pointed wings and deeply forked tails. Their bills come to a sharp point, whereas the bill of gull is rounded at the tip. Their legs are much shorter than a gull’s legs. Like gulls, terns are hunters of fish, and they can often be seen hovering above the surface of lakes and seas prior to diving in their attempts to capture their prey.
Many terns are highly-migratory. In fact, the world champion among the animal world for long migrations is the Arctic Tern, a North American species which migrates between the North and South poles, a distance of 20, 000 km., twice a year.
The Common Tern is also well traveled, moving between their breeding grounds in Northern China and wintering grounds in
Southeast Asia. Common Terns are very
nearly cosmopolitan and can be found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere
|Photo by Tony Hisgett|