Elegant tern Sterna elegans

Adult alternate:

Adult basic:



Similar species:

When identifying terns it is safest to rely on a combination of field marks rather than a single one. Elegant Terns are most similar to Royal Terns but are smaller and slenderer, with much more slender, drooping bills and lack a pale eyering in the dark mask in basic and immature plumages. The Caspian Tern can be separated from the Elegant by its thicker, reddish bill, dark wedge on the outer portion of the underwing, its more shallowly-forked tail and its tendency to have an almost complete cap in basic and immature plumages. The Cayenne Tern, a yellow-billed race of the Sandwich Tern has been recorded in the southeast United States, is very similar and differs mostly in extreme subtleties of bill structure. The smaller Sterna terns have slimmer, black or black-tipped bills, slimmer bodies and wings and a much more deeply-forked tail.