(Fire Island), NY / June 10, 2000
This first-summer (i.e., born in 1999) Arctic
Tern (Sterna paradisaea) was initially spotted
by Tony Lauro in a small group of Common Terns (Sterna hirundo)
and Roseate Terns (Sterna dougallii) at Democrat Point at the extreme
western tip of Fire Island. We were able to study the tern at leisure
and I managed to take several minutes of video of the tern both
in flight and on the ground, as well as a handful of photographs.
Figure 1 Though
this video capture is a bit blurry, some key field marks in separating
Arctic Tern from Common Tern can be seen. Especially helpful is
the pattern of black along the trailing edge of the primaries.
Here the thin and more sharply defined black trailing edge typical
of Arctic Tern can be seen. Other features which help eliminate
Common Tern of this age are the uniform uppersides to the primaries,
due to the fact that first-summer Arctic Terns have already molted
and all the primaries are the same age. First-summer Common Tern
shows a contrast between the darker, worn retained primaries and
the pale newer primaries. Arctic Tern also lacks the darker secondaries
typical of first-summer Common Tern. Image copyright © of
Andrew Guthrie, 2000.
2 This video capture of the tern on the ground shows
the extremely short legs typical of Arctic Tern. Other features
which can be seen here are the relatively short, dark bill
(in this image the bill appears even shorter due to the angle
of the bird's head), the extensively white crown, and the uniformly
colored primaries. Image copyright © of Andrew Guthrie,
Status in New York
Arctic Tern is listed in Bull's Birds of New York as a very rare
vagrant. of just over a dozen published records, six are described
as "fully documented", including three specimen records
and one photographed. Interestingly, the only spring record in
this group is a specimen collected at Cayuga Lake, Tompkins Co.,
May 20, 1916. The remaining spring sight records range in date
from May 14 to June 23. In mid-June 1999, after the publication
of the updated Bull's, two Arctic Terns were found at widely separated
Long Island locations on the same day - an adult at Sag Pond (T.
Lauro) and a first-summer at Democrat Point (S. Mitra, P. Lindsay).
Levine E. (ed.) 1998. Bull's Birds of New York State. Cornell
University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.
Olsen, Klaus Malling and Hans Larsson. 1995. Terns of Europe and
North America. Princeton
University Press, Princeton, N.J.
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