Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn Bird Watch: July 15

Royal Tern. Scientific Name: Thalasseus maximus

July 15, 2021 By Joseph Palmer
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The Royal Tern is part of a family of large, noisy shorebirds called Laridae. We shot this picture of a Royal Tern making loud noises while standing amidst a small flock of other Royal Terns on the white, sun drenched Sand Key beach in Clearwater, Florida. 

Back in Brooklyn, under the watchful eye of Heather Wolf, Common Terns are often seen in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Plum Beach. “Royal Terns do visit Kings County and have been observed more along Plum Beach and Coney Island than in Brooklyn Bridge Park,” says Heather Wolf. 

The Cornell Lab says of the Royal Tern: It is “a sleek seabird of warm saltwater coasts, it lives up to it regal name with a tangerine colored bill and ragged, ink-black crest against crisp white plumage.  Royal Terns fly gracefully and slowly along coastlines, diving for small fish, which they capture with a swift strike of their dagger-like bills. They are very social birds, gathering between fishing expeditions on undisturbed beaches and nesting in dense, boisterous colonies.” 

Some interesting facts about the Royal Tern include its nest scrape building habits on low-lying islands. The pair defecates directly on the nest rim, perhaps to reinforce the nest against flooding. After a few weeks, the nest rim hardens.

Soon after birth the chicks in a colony form a “nursery” that can contain thousands of chicks ranging in age from 2-35 days. The Royal Tern parents feed only their own chicks and bird professionals believe it is, miraculously, because they can identify the distinct sound of their chicks.  

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