Terns in Love

terns dancing 1
We definitely saw a lot of courtship and even mating behavior among the terns and gulls at Plymouth Beach last month.

cross terns
It was fellow blogger Hilke Breder, the brilliant author of One Jackdaw Birding, who noticed the courtship behavior displayed in this photo when I first posted it a few weeks ago.

courtship terns 4
There is evidently quite a bit of ritualized behavior involved in the courtship of Common Terns.

two common terns II
Along with head tossing, loud calls, and very dignified dancing, there was also what we would consider more romantic behavior. The males often bring a gift of food to their potential mate, for instance.

terns in love
At first, I thought this 'piggyback' behavior was nothing more than a game. There is no potential for consummation of a sexual act in this position, after all!

tern piggyback 1
But this how sex starts for terns and for other species such as Laughing Gulls. After a little twisting and 'terning', the female will probably walk away with a fertilized egg!


  1. Susan, thanks for mentioning my blog! Your photos are amazing, a wonderful illustration of the ritual of courtship among the terns, the strutting, posturing etc.

  2. Thank you so much, guys. I'm positively blushing to be complimented by such stellar bloggers as yourselves. I appreciate your comments tremendously!


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