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All Photos Are Copyright Lyn S. Atherton

This page was last updated on 12/02/01.

Elegant Tern--8/17/01, Ft. De Soto Park, Pinellas Co., Florida

In late afternoon at the Gulf Pier wall, I discovered another Elegant-type tern resting on the same beach as where I found the park's first Elegant Tern on 12/02/00. Since I had to return to the car to get my camera, and the tern flew after I took only three photographs of it at rest, I wasn't able to study the plumage or soft part coloration in detail at that time. So analysis of the resting tern's features are based on the photos taken at that time. It had a relatively short tail with the longer outer tail feathers appearing quite dark. The outer primaries were dark, indicative of being old and worn (new primaries being paler gray). It appears from the photo of the outstretched wing that two of the inner primaries were missing (molted out). Terns of Europe and North America (Olsen and Larsson) states that the Elegant "juvenile has a complete molt to first-winter plumage," so this would account for molting primaries. There was a dark secondary bar showing through the underside of the primaries. Most interesting was that there was extensive dark smudging on the reddish-orange bill (with paler orangish-yellow tip) which I think could also indicate a hatching-year bird, although an adult hybrid of Elegant and Sandwich might also show this discoloration. After I took the three photographs, the tern flew E along the shore towards the Bay Pier where it began diving and feeding. I followed the tern down the beach and began photographing it while it searched and appeared to dive for fish. During the 30 minutes or so I was photographing and observing the tern, I was shocked to see on one occasion, an Elegant fly by me with fish in its bill and another following it while begging loudly! I'm certain there were two Elegant-types present during this observation. I never noticed either bird in flight having dark smudging on the bill or anything other than all blackish feet, but this is not surprising as I was mainly concentrating on getting some identifiable photos rather than studying the flying terns. None of the flight shots show smudging on the bills. However, this could be due to the poor quality of the photos. What the photos do reveal is that at least one of the Elegant-types had reddish coloring in the feet. The photos of the resting tern don't show any reddish coloring in the feet, but one of the photos of the tern with fish in bill does show the reddish in the feet, so perhaps this was the parent tern. Click here to see photos.