Tern time

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A committee of terns on a dock, Indian River Lagoon, Hutchinson Island side. That’s the bridge between Hutchinson Island and Sewall’s Point in the distance.

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The Royal Terns look a lot bigger than the Sandwich Terns, when they are right next to each other.

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It was around 8:30 a.m. I wonder if they spent the night “roosting” on this tern-popular dock.

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One or two would fly off south now and then.

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I think that’s a juvenile Laughing Gull. The Royal Tern looks pretty big next to a gull too.

Gulls and terns (and skimmers) are in the same family, Laridae.

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Laridae is a family of seabirds in the order Charadriiformes that includes the gulls, terns and skimmers. It includes around 100 species arranged into 22 genera. They are an adaptable group of mostly aerial birds found worldwide.

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Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns in this pic, both in the genus Thalasseus… from the Greek Thalassa, meaning “sea.”

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The big Royal Terns are Thalasseus maximus and the smaller Sandwich Terns are Thalasseus sandvicensis.

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Thalasseus terns feed by plunge-diving for fish, almost invariably from the sea. They usually dive directly, and not from the “stepped-hover” favoured by, for example, the Arctic tern. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

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These species have long thin sharp bills, usually a shade of yellow or orange except in the Sandwich tern and Cabot’s tern where the bills are black with yellow tips in most subspecies. All species have a shaggy crest. In winter, the Thalasseus terns’ foreheads become white.

 

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“Sandwich” refers to Sandwich, Kent, England where they were first described and classified by ornithologist John Latham in 1787.

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Collective nouns for our fine feathered Thalasseus friends?

thespruce.com: A cotillion of terns.

nzbirds.com: A highness of Royal Terns and a hogey of Sandwich Terns!

Country Life: a committee of terns.

As author Chloe Rhodes explains in An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns, unlike proverbs, rhymes or homilies, many of these words endure because they were recorded and published in Books of Courtesy handbooks designed to educate the nobility. ‘They were created and perpetuated as a means of marking out the aristocracy from the less well-bred masses,’ she writes.

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