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Forster's Tern

Sterna forsteri

Length: 15 inches Wingspan: 30 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Black cap and nape, deeply forked tail, white underparts, pale gray upperparts, orange-red bill, legs, and feet.

Forster's Tern - Sterna forsteriForster's Terns are generally the most common of the black-capped, gray-backed, white bodied terns found in the state.  Very similar to the Common Tern, the Forster's Tern is also the more common breeder in the state, generally being found around freshwater marshes, and often nesting on the top of muskrat houses.  

Habitat: In summer, primarily large freshwater marshes on the interior of the country, or salt marshes along the coasts. In winter, many aquatic habitats along the coasts.

Diet: Primarily fish, but will also eat insects, small crustaceans and mollusks, frogs, and tadpoles.

Behavior: Forages by flying slowing over water or hovering, dipping down to snag sighted fish below the surface.  They will also sometimes capture flying insects in mid-air.

Nesting: June and July

Song: Forster's Tern Song

Migration: Summers in scattered locations throughout the U.S. and southern Canada.  Winters along U.S. coastlines and points south, but is generally not as much of a long-distance migrant as its close relatives.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Forster's Tern sightings

Similar Species: Common Tern, Arctic Tern

Conservation Status: Has declined in portions of its range, probably due to habitat loss.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Forster's Tern

2) BirdWeb - Forster's Tern

3) Audubon Guide - Forster's Tern

Photo Information: June 23rd, 2005 - Assateague Island in Virginia - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Forster's Tern photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Forster's Tern - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant and summer resident in the eastern part of the state and in the northern Sand Hills on the southern edge of the state.  Uncommon migrant and summer visitor elsewhere in the state.

Additional Forster's Tern Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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