Elegant terns

ElegantTern1The elegant terns are back. For the past couple of weeks I’ve spotted them resting in the Monterey Harbor and feeding in the waters off Fisherman’s Wharf #2 and Del Monte Beach. They’re migrants, visiting us after nesting in Southern California and Mexico. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, approximately 90-97% of all elegant terns nest in one colony on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California — a seabird sanctuary since 1964. (Heermann’s gulls breed there, too, and are also back in the Monterey area.)

ElegantTernElegant terns (Thalasseus elegans) are fairly easy to find. Just zero in on the midair squeeky-gate-hinge sound. It’s a medium-sized tern with a yellow-orange bill, short forked tail, and a full black cap (during breeding season). Right now, the forehead is more whitish and the cap looks like a slipping black toupee.

ElegantTern w_FishTake time to watch them over the water soar, bank and dive into the bay for small fishes (anchovies mostly). If you’re fortunate, you’ll see an elegant catch.

About Chris Parsons

Science writer/educator exploring nature and sharing via words, images, data and stories — to connect, inspire and conserve.
This entry was posted in Monterey Bay, Sandy beach and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Elegant terns

  1. Patty and Chris says:

    Thanks for the post, Chris. We sure wish we were there to see them in person.

  2. Gunta says:

    That last one is a great catch for both you and the bird!


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