Don’t Let His Looks Fool You

Common Tern Diving for Prey

Terence may look a bit like a gull when standing on a sandbar, but all resemblance disappears when he suddenly takes to the sky.

From the moment he leaves the ground, you know this can’t be a gull. Instead of awkwardly flapping, Terence takes off like an avian missile, rising vertically into the sky before leveling off on his mission.

He’s built for the business of diving and boy howdy, is he exciting to watch.

A gull may glide lazily over the water, but terns like Terence are built for speed. His lighter build, longer, pointed wings and deeply forked tail let him speed through the skies, banking and cornering like a racing plane as he locks eyes on his target below.

And then, in an instant, he dive bombs — spear-fishing with wickedly pointed beak, before racing back to deliver the fish to his nest of fuzzy chicks.

Should he miss on his first dive, no worries! Endowed with webbed feet, he’s a speed swimmer too and can nail his prey underwater.

I photographed Terence with my Sony A1 and Sony’s wonderfully light and sharp new FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens. The bird eye-autofocus worked perfectly.

Common Tern in Flight, Edwin C. Forsyth Wildlife Refuge, Brigantine, New Jersey.
Cruising speedily through the sky, Terns can suddenly lock onto prey and dive before you can blink at what’s happening.


    1. I kind of like that term — sea swallows! Certainly the tail and wings are very swallow-like.

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