The black tern (Chlidonias niger) is a small and graceful bird that can be found in wetlands, marshes, and shallow freshwater areas across North America, Europe, and Asia. This bird measures about 9-10 inches in length and weighs between 1.4 and 2.2 ounces. The black tern’s wingspan is typically around 24 inches, which allows it to be agile in the air as it hunts for prey.
One of the distinguishing features of the black tern is its striking black plumage on its head, neck, and underparts, contrasting with its silvery-gray upperparts. The bird also has a deeply forked tail, which can help differentiate it from other tern species. During breeding season, the bird’s bill turns from dark to reddish, and its legs and feet turn from black to a bright red.
The black tern is a migratory bird that breeds in northern regions such as Canada, the United States, and Eurasia. They migrate south for the winter, and can be found along coastal areas of Central and South America, as well as along the coasts of Africa and Southeast Asia. During migration, they may form large flocks and can be seen flying in a looping pattern as they hunt for insects and small fish.
The black tern is known for its acrobatic aerial displays, often twisting and turning mid-flight as it chases down its prey. It primarily feeds on insects, small fish, and crustaceans, which it snatches from the surface of the water. The bird’s hunting technique involves hovering over the water and then diving headfirst to catch its prey.
Although the black tern is not currently listed as endangered, habitat loss and degradation, as well as pollution, pose significant threats to their populations. Wetland conservation efforts and the protection of breeding areas are crucial to ensure the continued survival of this stunning bird.