Image: Joseph Kennedy, 6 June 2008 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/2000s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.
Read a detailed analysis for identifying this species below the fold …
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Compare this bird’s shape and structure to the Sandwich Tern in a recent quiz. You’ll notice right away that the legs are thick and the bill heavy, broad, and powerful — from this angle, especially noticeable at the base. Instead of the elongated body and “swan neck” of Sandwich , this bird is nearly terete — like the cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll — with a massive, thick neck and a decidedly angular head.
All classic features of Gull-billed Tern, as is the broad dark trailing edge of the primaries. Bill color is a nice supporting mark in this photo, but it’s worth noting that Olsen and Larsson’s Terns warns that the extreme tip of the bill can be pale.
In the field, Gull-billed Terns stand out nicely because of their habitat and habit. They aren’t often seen over the ocean, preferring instead to hunt the salt marshes. And that hunting is accomplished not by plunge-diving, the usual mode of attack of large terns, but by swooping and skimming, plucking crabs and other small invertebrates from the ground as they pass.
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