The Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) is a medium-sized tern species found in a variety of habitats across the world. This bird measures about 14-15 inches (35-38 cm) in length and weighs around 7-8 ounces (200-225 grams). The species has a distinct yellow bill with a black tip, which is thicker and more robust than other terns found in its range. Its body is mostly white, with a light gray mantle, and its legs are dark.
The Gull-billed Tern is an exceptional flier and can cover vast distances during its annual migration. The species breeds in a range of habitats, including saltmarshes, coastal lagoons, and sandy beaches, in southern Europe, North Africa, Asia, and Australia. During the non-breeding season, Gull-billed Terns can be found in coastal habitats throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. They are also found in small numbers in North and South America.
One of the most distinguishing field marks of the Gull-billed Tern is its distinctive call, which is a sharp “kik-kik-kik.” In flight, the species can be identified by its broad wings, which are darker at the tips and a tail that is notched at the tip. The species’ yellow bill with a black tip and its stocky appearance distinguishes it from other terns.
The Gull-billed Tern is a bird of prey, feeding mainly on small fish and invertebrates, which it catches by hovering and diving from the air. It is also known to take insects, crustaceans, and occasionally small mammals. During the breeding season, the Gull-billed Tern nests in small colonies, laying two to three eggs in a simple scrape on the ground.
The Gull-billed Tern is a fascinating species to observe, with its unique appearance and impressive flying ability. Although the species is not globally threatened, it is declining in some areas due to habitat loss and human disturbance. Efforts to conserve this species and its habitats are essential to ensure its survival for future generations to enjoy.