WEEK-BY-WEEK BIRDS TO SEEK: WEEK 21 MARSH TERNS

EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.

This week, it is marsh terns

This week we look at the so-called marsh terns (as opposed to the sea terns); small terns (not much bigger than Little Terns) so named because they are mainly freshwater birds, breeding inland; although they will fly over the sea during migration. There are three species in the world which all occur in the UK, but don’t breed. Black terns are regular passage birds in small numbers, while White-winged Black Terns are quite rare and Whiskered Terns even rarer. In breeding plumage ID is straightforward, but they are harder to ID in juvenile and winter plumages, which need a bit of learning.

 

Black Tern

Adult spring Black Tern

Adult spring Black Tern

Juvenile Black Tern

Juvenile Black Tern

Spring adults are dark grey to black with paler grey wings and back (including the rump and tail) , including the underwing. Winter adults are grey above, white below, with a dark mark at the ‘shoulder’ and with a black cap. Juveniles are similar to winter adults, but much more scaly looking, with neatly fringed wing and back feathers.

 

White-winged Black Tern

Adult spring White-winged Black Tern

Adult spring White-winged Black Tern

Striking in spring breedingplumage, with a jet black body and underwing coverts, dark ‘saddle’ on the back, but pale, almost white upperwings and whitish rump and tail. The legs are red. Juveniles share also have a dark ‘saddle and pale rump, and lack the Black Tern’s shoulder mark. All birds have finer, shorter bills than Black Terns.

 

Whiskered Tern

Adult spring Whiskered Tern

Adult spring Whiskered Tern

Adult winter Whiskered Tern

Adult winter Whiskered Tern

Adults have mid grey bodies and wings, with obvious contrasting white cheeks an, a black cap and red bill and legs. Juveniles are somewhat like a mix between the other two species’ juveniles, with a coarsely patterned brown and black and ginger ‘saddle’ and no shoulder mark, pale wings and tail.