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Royal Tern

Scientific name: Sterna maxima

Widely distributed worldwide, the Royal Tern is a coastal obligate, sometimes found some distance offshore but never very far inland except due to unusual situations such as hurricanes. A colonial nester, the Royal Tern is less aggressive then other terns, although it does defend the nest site itself.

Royal Terns typically spend a couple of years on the wintering grounds after fledging, and do not breed until age three or four. They may live a very long time, with the oldest known bird in the wild being over 27 years old. Standard aluminum bird bands have a short lifespan on Royal Terns, so more studies using more durable bands are needed.

Photograph © Greg Lavaty