Tag Archives: Laughing Gull

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.

Bait run plus terns

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This was the scene at Bob Graham Beach, Hutchinson Island last Tuesday: a thick black line of bait fish in the blue-green ocean.

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A fisherman told me the bait fish running at this time of year are called “anchovies.” The big and famous mullet run comes a few weeks later.

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I love when the wind and surf are calm enough to see into the water like this. It’s like the Caribbean then, instead of the often-windy Shipwreck, I mean Treasure Coast.

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Tarpon were cruising along right offshore beyond the bait line, occasionally swirling on the surface as they fed on little fish.

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I didn’t get any good tarpon shots but trust me it was an impressive show and everyone on the beach was enjoying it.

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Bait clouds.

Here’s a drone video of tarpon during the mullet run at a beach further south on the Florida coast: Florida Mullet Run & Tarpon.

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But let’s get to the birds!

Ruddy Turnstones still in breeding plumage. Must be migrating down from their northern nesting areas.

It may be 90 degrees but “bird fall” (and fish fall) has begun.

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Buddha bird.

Be the bird.

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A little further down the beach, lots of terns including this Royal.

I’ve been trying to learn our local terns!

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This one is a Sandwich Tern.

A bird of marine coasts of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, the Sandwich Tern is readily identified by its shaggy crest and yellow-tipped black bill.

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The tern with the large orange bill is a Royal Tern. Sandwich Tern above and non-breeding Laughing Gull on the right.

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Step aside for the lone White Ibis, little Laughing Gull!

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A beach full of fat and happy birds, having recently fed on the abundant bait fish.

The terns do the work and the gulls steal their fish, often. Though I have seen the gulls skim a fish right off the surface of the water too.

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Sandwich Tern.

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Whee!

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I think the one smaller tern with the orange bill is a Common Tern. But they look like Forster’s Terns too.

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Sandwich Tern and some Laughing Gulls.

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Very distinctive bill, in color and length – I think I’ve learned this tern.

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Family dynamics of Sandwich Terns?

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These women stopped and turned around when they got to the birds. Very polite of them not to make them fly.

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Relocating.

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Gull practicing its thievery skills.

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Two adult non-breeding and one immature Royal Tern in this pic.

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Royal family.

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Sandwich Terns with the Laughing Gulls here.

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Tern dive.

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So many fish to choose from.

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Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns.

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Away they go.

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And down the beach I find one little Piping Plover! (I checked on What’s This Bird to make sure it wasn’t a Snowy Plover, since they look alike – online – to me.)

Everyone needs a secret beach hideout. Researchers only recently discovered that more than one-third of the Piping Plover population that breeds along the Atlantic coast spends the winter in the Bahamas.

Don’t you want to be the researchers?… hey, we found the Piping Plovers… in the Bahamas!

Wake up, birds!

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Good morning, night heron.

I saw this  juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron on the mud flats by the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop in Jensen Beach the other morning.

This location is within my 5-mile “local bird” radius. (More on 5MR birding HERE at the Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds blog.)

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I like the pattern of little triangles on the feathers.

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The pier behind the bait and tackle shop is a popular resting spot for a variety of Indian River Lagoon birds. Great Blue Heron wades below.

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Gulls and White Ibis.

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These Laughing Gulls seem to be just waking up.

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Tern hanging with the gulls. I think it’s a Sandwich Tern because the bill is dark and maybe tipped with yellow. The light isn’t great for getting the colors, but Royal Terns have orange bills that are pretty bright.

A bird of marine coasts of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, the Sandwich Tern is readily identified by its shaggy crest and yellow-tipped black bill.

One of my summer bird goals is to learn more terns.

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Bird holding still. Always good for my level of photography skill!

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Yo! Does this night heron need a cup of coffee or what?

Lazybirding June

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Gull loaf.

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A couple of young Laughing Gulls claimed a piling each at Sandsprit Park a few days ago.

Not a lot of bird action these days, with wintering birds gone and nesting season nearing the end. Or am I the lazy one?

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The grackle (Boat-tailed) is a reliable presence, easily spotted and willing to pose for portraits. This one found me, flew down from a cabbage palm, landed on a railing by the waters of Manatee Pocket and said, “HERE  I AM, LADY.”

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Yesterday evening I saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron near the entrance of the east causeway park of the Ernest Lyons Bridge. I was riding in the passenger seat of the car, with my camera on my lap and simply asked my husband to slow down, then I leaned out the window and click! (Or whatever the digital camera sound is.) That was easy.

It’s my first photo of an adult Nyctanassa violacea! (Order Pelicaniformes, family Ardeidae.)

While not as slender as a typical heron, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s smooth purple-gray colors, sharp black-and-white face, and long yellow plumes lend it a touch of elegance. They forage at all hours of the day and night, stalking crustaceans in shallow wetlands and wet fields. Their diet leans heavily on crabs and crayfish, which they catch with a lunge and shake apart, or swallow whole.

Here is a juvenile eating a crab, back in Dec. 2016 when I first moved to this exotic locale.

Snook Nook look

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The fishing pier, little beach and waters of the Indian River Lagoon behind the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop is an eBird hotspot that also falls within my 5-mile radius. After breakfast at the delicious Mary’s Gourmet Kitchen yesterday (open at 7 a.m. for early birds) we traveled a short distance north for a look-see at the ‘Nook.

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Osprey on sea grapes at the edge of the lagoon, making some noise.

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I’m pretty sure this is a Reddish Egret, on a quick fly by. The current U.S. population, located on the Atlantic coast in Florida and all around the Gulf Coast, is roughly 2,000 pairs, according to Audubon.

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On the dock, just one bird. So much for Hotspot!

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It looks like a “second winter” Laughing Gull. Photo at Cornell.

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Laughing Gulls are year-round residents here. I remember when I was a kid visiting my grandparents at the Jersey Shore we would only see these gulls in summertime. Their distinctive laughing call is a soundtrack to happy childhood beach and boardwalk memories.

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Next a small, spotted wading bird flew into the scene.

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Definitely a rare Dalmatian Heron, right?

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Just kidding. It’s a young Blue Heron growing up and molting from white to “blue.”

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Little Blue Herons may gain a survival advantage by wearing white during their first year of life. Immature birds are likelier than their blue elders to be tolerated by Snowy Egrets—and in the egrets’ company, they catch more fish. Mingling in mixed-species flocks of white herons, immature Little Blue Herons probably also acquire extra protection against predators.

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With their patchy white-and-blue appearance, Little Blue Herons in transition from the white first-year stage to blue adult plumage are often referred to as “Calico,” “Pied,” or “Piebald.”

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When I was a young girl going through my horse phase I remember learning the odd words “pied” and “piebald” for that particular black-and-white horse color.

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The famous Pied Piper from the Middle Ages tale is “pied” because of his multicolored clothing.

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This pied dog is a Dalmatian, of course.

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Pied little blue in the IRL.

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Wonderful photos and description at Mia McPherson’s On The Wing: Age Related Color Morphs of Little Blue Herons

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Wading bird wading, with the causeway to the bridge from the Jensen Beach mainland to Hutchinson Island beyond. Layers of moody tropically-moist storm clouds tell the story: rainy season has begun.

Two gulls on a Florida beach

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Gulls eating Doritos, South Beach Park in Fort Pierce on Hutchinson Island yesterday.

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Sitting in a beach chair on a perfect sunny warm day is a nice way to watch birds. Our New Hampshire snowbird friends were with us.

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These two gulls were together for a while.

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This is a Laughing Gull. They have solid black heads in breeding season so maybe this one is transitioning.

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Swirling over beaches with strident calls and a distinctive, crisp black head, Laughing Gulls provide sights and sounds evocative of summer on the East Coast. You’ll run across this handsome gull in large numbers at beaches, docks, and parking lots, where they wait for handouts or fill the air with their raucous calls. Laughing Gulls are summer visitors to the Northeast and year-round sights on the coasts of the Southeast and the Gulf of Mexico.

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This one is a Ring-billed Gull. I would see them a lot in New Hampshire. This one looks like a “second winter” gull with tan streaking.

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Familiar acrobats of the air, Ring-billed Gulls nimbly pluck tossed tidbits from on high. Comfortable around humans, they frequent parking lots, garbage dumps, beaches, and fields, sometimes by the hundreds. These are the gulls you’re most likely to see far away from coastal areas—in fact, most Ring-billed Gulls nest in the interior of the continent, near freshwater. A black band encircling the yellow bill helps distinguish adults from other gulls—but look closely, as some other species have black or red spots on the bill.

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Laughing Gulls and their distinctive calls remind me of summers at the Jersey Shore when I was growing up.

This is a very vocal species whose common call is a loud, descending series of laughing notes lasting 3 seconds or more.

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Ring-billed Gulls are here only in winter/ non-breeding season, whereas Laughing Gulls are year-round residents. As with humans, it’s a busy season when residents and snowbirds are in Florida at the same time.

Corsons Inlet early August afternoon

Gulls at Corson's Inlet

Gulls at Corsons Inlet, Ocean City, August 7.

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Common terns? and a couple of kids.

Corson’s Inlet State Park is located at the southern end of the island and city of Ocean City.

More photos on Flickr: Birds at Corsons Inlet.

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A graceful, black-and-white waterbird, the Common Tern is the most widespread tern in North America. It can be seen plunging from the air into water to catch small fish along rivers, lakes, and oceans.

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Swirling over beaches with strident calls and a distinctive, crisp black head, Laughing Gulls provide sights and sounds evocative of summer on the East Coast.