Caspian Terns

This gallery contains 4 photos. Although it’s almost as big as the large gulls of the Pacific Northwest–and will often mix with them during Metro Vancouver summers–one look at the Caspian Tern, and you know it’s clearly not a gull. Its fire engine red dagger of a bill, and the cap of black feathers that covers the top half of its head are two of the field marks that set it apart from other similarly-sized seabirds.

© WHSIM Caspian Tern at Boundary Bay.jpgstill 50 feet away in the sunset at Boundary Bay Regional Park on August 22, 2016
f/8, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 200

You won’t find it dining on scraps at the landfill, either. Like the Belted Kingfisher, the Caspian Tern has a hankering for sashimi, although the latter prefers to fish in open waters. This superb hunter will sight its prey from 20-30 feet above the water’s surface, and do a sheer vertical dive into the water to snatch its meal. 9 times out of 10, it will resurface with a wriggling comestible.

© WHSIM Caspian Terns at the Beach.jpgthis is no time for hanky panky … at the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty on July 17, 2015
f/8, 1/640, 500mm, ISO 160

Caspian Terns have extreme personal space issues — at least, when it comes to the paparazzi. Once they’ve spotted you (usually from 100 feet away), they’ll quietly and singly make their exits (unless, of course, they have a nest in the area; then, they may visit a vengeance of Angry Birds caliber on your head if you get too close. No, I’m not speaking from personal experience).

© WHSIM Flight of a Caspian Tern at the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty.jpgtaking flight at the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty on July 17, 2015
f/8, 1/640, 500mm, ISO 125

As with many birds, timing and opportunity are everything. This was my situation when I wandered into a baker’s dozen of them–the largest flock of Caspian Terns I have encountered to date–at the local beach last summer. I never got closer than 70 feet–but it was still an amazing encounter (click on the image below or this link to see a larger version of the encounter). Learn more about the Caspian Tern by visiting its Cornell Lab of Ornithology profile here.

A Baker's Dozen of Caspian Terns
the infamous group of thirteen at the Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty on July 17, 2015
f/8, 1/640, 500mm, ISO 200


13 thoughts on “Caspian Terns

    • thanks for the invitation, Pam! now I know where they spend the colder months. 🙂 you have some of the prettiest birds I’ve never seen in the feathers before … including the Painted Bunting!!


  1. Pingback: Buff-Breasted Sandpipers | W.H. SIM PHOTOGRAPHY

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