My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Caspian Tern, Hydroprogne caspia

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Caspian Tern, Hydroprogne caspia

The Caspian tern is a species of tern.

It is the world’s largest tern with a length of 48–60 cm (19–24 in), a wingspan of 127–145 cm (50–57 in) and a weight of 530–782 g (18.7–27.6 oz). Adult birds have black legs, and a long thick red-orange bill with a small black tip. They have a white head with a black cap and white neck, belly and tail. The upper wings and back are pale grey; the under-wings are pale with dark primary feathers. In flight, the tail is less forked than other terns and wing tips black on the underside. In winter, the black cap is still present (unlike many other terns), but with some white streaking on the forehead. The call is a loud heron-like croak.

Their breeding habitat is large lakes and ocean coasts in North America (including the Great Lakes), and locally in Europe (mainly around the Baltic Sea and Black Sea), Asia, Africa, and Australasia (Australia and New Zealand). North American birds migrate to southern coasts, the West Indies and northernmost South America. European and Asian birds spend the non-breeding season in the Old World tropics. African and Australasian birds are resident or disperse over short distances.

They feed mainly on fish, which they dive for, hovering high over the water and then plunging. They also occasionally eat large insects, the young and eggs of other birds and rodents. They may fly up to 60 km (37 mi) from the breeding colony to catch fish, it often fishes on freshwater lakes as well as at sea.

Breeding is in spring and summer, with one to three pale blue green eggs, with heavy brown spotting, being laid. They nest either together in colonies, or singly in mixed colonies of other tern and gull species. The nest is on the ground among gravel and sand, or sometimes on vegetation; incubation lasts for 26–28 days. The chicks are variable in plumage pattern, from pale creamy to darker grey-brown; this variation assists adults in recognizing their own chicks when returning to the colony from feeding trips. Fledging occurs after 35–45 days.

On to my photos:

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

This is number 163 in my photo life list, only 187 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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27 responses

  1. Wow, not one but a full series of these beautiful birds in flights. Talk about a tough subject!

    July 9, 2014 at 9:58 am

    • Thanks Emily! Not to rub it in, but I deleted three times as many photos as I put in the post. The terns were being very cooperative when I was on vacation.

      July 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

      • Oh you so did rub it in…I’m lucky if I have one of these. Fabulous post Jerry!

        July 9, 2014 at 10:01 am

      • Thanks, but you’re the one that just posted perfect photos of an osprey in flight.

        July 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

  2. What a wonderful bird complemented by your wonderful pictures, a delight all round.

    July 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    • Thank you Susan!

      July 9, 2014 at 2:13 pm

  3. Nicely done! One of my favorite birds. We’ve seen them on the impoundments along the Manistee and AuSable Rivers..

    July 9, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    • Thanks Bob! I’ve seen flocks of them at Ludington, but could never get close. These Lake Huron terns seemed to pose for me.

      July 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm

  4. Okay, so I have a question – maybe to be considered “stupid” and probably answered if I felt like looking it up myself – are terns and gulls in the same family or are they different species/families? These are all really awesome images, Jerry!

    July 9, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    • Thank you! It wasn’t a dumb question, they are related to gulls, but I wouldn’t have been positive about that if I hadn’t looked it up once myself.

      July 10, 2014 at 2:35 am

      • Thanks!!

        July 10, 2014 at 8:37 am

  5. Beautifully illustrated.

    July 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    • Thanks Tom!

      July 10, 2014 at 2:36 am

  6. A beautiful bird and so many good photos of it

    July 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    • Thank you Clare!

      July 10, 2014 at 2:36 am

  7. Excellent photos! This is a sleek looking bird. I’ll bet they can really move when they want to.

    July 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I suspect that you’re correct about their speed, I know that I couldn’t keep up with them when they dove for fish.

      July 10, 2014 at 2:37 am

  8. What a gorgeous bird. Terrific shots, as always.

    July 9, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    • Thanks Judy!

      July 10, 2014 at 2:37 am

  9. Its hiding it’s feet inside the feathers when flying, very elegant 🙂
    Thanking you for showing these amazing photography work,
    Michel 🙂

    July 10, 2014 at 4:16 am

    • Thank you Michel! Many birds, especially those that soar, tuck their feet inside their feathers, it cuts the wind resistance down.

      July 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm

  10. Beautiful and perfectly clear

    July 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

    • Thank you Mary!

      July 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm

  11. You sure take beautiful pictures. I love the post whenever you feel like it. I haven’t seen that one. 🙂

    July 12, 2014 at 1:35 am

    • Thank you! I stole that from some one else’s blog, with their permission of course.

      July 12, 2014 at 2:56 am

      • I thought it looked blogger-made, but cool none-the-less!!

        July 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      • Looks good wherever it cam from. 🙂

        July 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm