Texan Tern Royalty

Thalasseus maximus

Globally, there are two subspecies of Royal Terns. On the west coast of Africa lives T. m. albididorsalis, and in North and South America we find T. m. maximus. Unless driven by powerful storms, these birds are seldom found far from oceanic coastlines. They usually feed in estuaries and shallow lakes near the ocean, but Royal Terns sometimes feed as far as fifty miles out to sea.

In San Diego, Royal Terns will often be found nesting in Elegant Tern colonies at the Saltworks (part of South San Diego Bay NWR). Royal Terns will feed only their own young, and given the crowded locations where they share space with large colonies of Elegant Terns (and others), this is a remarkable skill. When returning from foraging expeditions, every hungry chick within sight does its best to convince the parent bird that it deserves to be fed.

In Texas I found Royal Terns at Aransas NWR and South Padre Island. Visit the <Species Gallery> to see images of birds I met in California, including those in nesting colonies.

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