Black Terns in the Midst of Cape Cod

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One of these terns is not like the others.

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One (or two) of these terns just doesn't belong!

Can you guess which tern is not like the others?

I hope so cause I don't know how to end this song!  So - what are they?  Not Roseate Terns (unfortunately for the ornithology students that were desperately seeking Roseate Terns at South Beach that day).  Not Fosters Terns or Arctic Terns, either.  What else is there?

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Black Terns!  The very tern my son most wanted to see (but these don't count for him because they are juveniles).  Very COOL!!  They are juveniles or non breeding adults, so they are not as black as they can be, granted.  But they are considered rare around here, and we are very lucky we saw them!  There have been other sightings on South Beach throughout the week, so you don't have to take our word that they are there!  (Oh, the birds in question are the ones on either end in this picture.  If you click the photo, there are notes identifying the Black Terns on each flickr image, too.)

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This was not an easy ID, but I had to do so much research that now I'm sure I have it right! (As always, I welcome any opposing views and dissenting opinions, though!  I could be making a tremendous blunder!)  There is not a lot of info about Black Terns out there. There were NO images that resembled this bird until I tried searching on "juvenile black tern."  Then I found images galore! (The bird in the middle here.)

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I am very proud of the deductive reasoning that led me to look for juvenile black terns, BTW! I figured that since all terns seem to have white heads as juvies, maybe this little guy was a juvie, too. And voila! Page after page of matching pictures appeared like magic!

Anyway, I'm just tickled pink!  Two lifers! A Lesser Black-backed Gull and a bunch of Black Terns all in one day!  These two species are both European stragglers, too.  Both blown across the sea and ending up on Cape Cod the day I was there with a camera!  Better still, they showed up the day Pete was there with a camera!  Otherwise, I wouldn't be writing this now!


  1. You are so lucky! I have wanted to see and photograph a black tern, but no luck so far. Love those photos of flying terns.

  2. Awesome shots of terns in flight! I've always wanted to see a black tern. Good Job!


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