The Caspian Terns Have Arrived
Last month the Caspian Terns landed at Elkhorn Slough, and they have been a joy to watch! They are the largest tern in the world, and have a large red beak and a tail with only one fork. The body is white and looks like a gull, and the wings are light grayish. Breeding adults display a fully black cap. They breed in water habitats such as salt marshes, mudflats, barrier islands, river islands, freshwater lake islands, and dredge spoil islands. As they migrate north they are found in large rivers, lakes, and along the coastline.
Besides their appearance, I enjoy watching them fish. Terns fly over the water with a hovering behavior, then quickly plunge into the water, beak first, to catch fish. As I watch them with my spotting scope or binoculars, I don’t ever see them with a fish in their beak, but I imagine they are so fast they swallow it before coming out of the water. I usually see them in one of my shorebird survey sites called Parson’s Overlook, which is the biggest mudflat area at Elkhorn Slough that has water channels as well during low tide.