Migratory Birds of the Great Lakes University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
 about habitat birds + science 20 birds
aerialist raptors
copyright UW Sea Grant, writer: L. Wiland, design: T. Yao contact us credits

Common Tern — Water Connection

• When thirsty, the Common Tern drinks on the wing, gliding near the surface with wings slightly raised and dipping its bill below water several times.

• Common Terns that live along ocean coasts drink salt water, even when fresh water may be available nearby. Like many seabirds, they have nasal glands that excrete excess salt from sea water.

• Terns are primarily fish eaters, spotting their prey while flying 10 to 20 feet above the water. They execute a “plunge dive”—plummeting headfirst straight down, splattering the surface as they hit but seldom diving deeper than one or two feet, and often immersing only the forepart of the body. A grabber, not a stabber, the bird holds its captured prey crosswise in the bill tip, then carries it to the colony or turns it headfirst and swallows it.     next page >>

ML Reeb writer: Laurence Wiland design: T. Yao