Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elegant Tern

Thalasseus elegans
Today's animal is a migratory bird with a long bill and a nifty black crest. Elegant Terns live off the Pacific North American coasts, hanging out at different latitudes during different points of the year. They are shore birds and are very rarely found inland.

Elegant Terns have a massive migration route, though it as not as long as that of their Arctic Tern cousins. They spend their summers breeding up near California and Mexico, and then winter as far south as Chile. Interestingly, it is estimated that 90%-97% of all Elegant Terns nest in one colony on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California, Mexico!

Elegant Terns breed in monogamous pairs, and both parents help to incubate and feed the chicks. Chicks leave the nest after only a week, and they join a large colony, or creche, of similarly aged young birds. They will stay with the creche for a little over a month, and their parents will continue to feed them during that time. Once they fledge, they remain near their family for several more months.

Elegant Terns are carnivores that feed primarily on fish. They hunt by flying over the water, adn then diving down swiftly to snatch up a meal.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Pacific Coasts
Size : Body length 16in (41cm), Wingspan 42in (107cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Sternidae -- Genus : Thalasseus -- Species : T. elegans

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