Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern
Photo credit: Jimmy Jackson
-Gelochelidon nilotica-

Length: 14 inches
Wingspan: 34 inches

Originally Sterna nilotica, recently reclassified as Gelochelidon nilotica. Colonial breeder, nests in ground scrapes laying two to five eggs. Large and powerful like Sandwich Tern but with gull-like bill. The broad wings, long legs and robust body are distinctive. Adult summer plumage has grey upperparts, white underparts, with black crown and nape. Bill, legs and feet are black. Call is a characteristic ker-wik. Hovers and drops quickly to catch insects but also feeds on other small creatures. Does not plunge-dive for fish. Nests along U.S. coast from mid-Atlantic through Mexico. Plume hunters and egg collectors decimated the population at the turn of the 20th century and the species has never fully recovered.