We definitely saw a lot of courtship and even mating behavior among the terns and gulls at Plymouth Beach last month.
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.
There is evidently quite a bit of ritualized behavior involved in the courtship of Common Terns.
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.
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!
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!