Elegant Tern Thalasseus elegans



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Photos from this Account

Breeding adult

Medium-sized tern with pointy wings. Long, slender yellow to reddish orange bill, appears to droop at tip. Breeding birds have a black crest that is shaggy at the rear.

Nonbreeding adult

Long, orange bill droops slightly at the tip. Nonbreeding birds have a shaggy black band around the back of head.

Breeding adult

The bill on juveniles is yellower than adults. Juveniles have a shaggy black band around the back of the head and variable amounts of dark mottling on the back and wings.

Nonbreeding adult

Long, drooping orange bill and shaggy black crest around the back of the head are key features. Also note dark primaries in flight.


Congregates on rocky outcrops, beaches, or pilings in the water. Note long shaggy crest at the rear of the head on nonbreeding birds.

Breeding and nonbreeding

Moves northward for a short period after breeding where they form large flocks.

Recommended Citation

Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/eleter1