Caspian Tern In Flight

I thought “the king of all the terns” deserved some exposure on my blog, especially since many folks don’t often see (or recognize) the species.


caspian tern 0419b ron dudley

1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

This is a “grab shot” of a Caspian Tern I took a few days ago at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. I was photographing grebes on the water when this raucous-sounding bird unexpectedly flew by and I just lifted my lens and popped off a couple of shots. It’s only a documentary image but I believe it represents the species well.

Caspian Terns are known for their massive coral-red bill, hoarse calls and their similarity to large gulls in flight. They’re the largest, strongest and fiercest of the terns and I always enjoy seeing them in summer. In North America they breed in widely scattered localities and one of them is here in northern Utah around the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake.

I often see this species in conjunction with Forster’s Terns as they dive for fish in shallow freshwater ponds but this summer I’ve seen fewer of both species than usual so I was pleased to get this shot of such a handsome bird.


14 comments to Caspian Tern In Flight

  • Power, grace, style.
    Thank you.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Beautiful flight shot Ron!


  • Patty Chadwick

    I like the color combinations of this solid looking bird….the white, black and vivid coral red…beautiful! Looks like a tough guy…

    • “Looks like a tough guy”

      They’re known as the tough guys on the block, Patty – it isn’t unusual for them to throw their weight around a little.

  • Laura Culley

    Distinctively, elegantly beautiful. Terns are right up there on the list of my favorite birds (and you know that’s a horizontal line with many species crowding across one line on the list, don’t you? LOL!). It’s always a delight to see them, but I haven’t in a while. Thank you for raising your camera again!

  • Judy Gusick

    For a “quicky” it sure is a good shot! Pretty bird. 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    Glad to see a picture of a Caspian Tern. I’ve been watching Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns (unexpected) and Common Terns here on the Outer Banks of NC. I don’t often see Terns, even here, so it’s been fun seeing the three species together.

    • Susan, I’ve never photographed Royal Terns but it’s my understanding that they resemble Caspian’s more than any other tern species.

      • Susan Stone

        Yes, they do resemble the Caspian more than any other species. Apart from being somewhat smaller, the time when it’s easy to tell them apart is when they are in non-breeding plumage, because the Royal Tern has a large white forehead (the look reminds me of Groucho Marx). They are about the same size as a Laughing Gull, also real common around here.

  • Hi Ron

    Thanks for sharing. Very nice capture. Getting the Tern’s detail in whites is challenging but getting the catch light in the eye is another greater challenge of its own.