The majority of people who visit or vacation at any of the beaches along the NJ coastline are generally there for the purpose of swimming, relaxing, and even visiting the boardwalk and venues which line many of the areas available. While sunbathing or swimming, no one really seems to notice all of the wildlife which is sharing the beach with us. Many common sights would be birds such as the Laughing Gull, the Herring Gull, and also a variety of species such as the Piping Plover, Semipalmated Plover and different species of Tern, to name a few.
One in particular which I find to be an elegant species, and also one which is quite entertaining is the Forster’s Tern. The Forster’s Tern is similar in appearance to the Common Tern. In breeding plumage, the Forster’s Tern has a back which is a light gray with silver/white primaries. It has a long and deeply forked tail, and it is all white underneath. It has a black cap, which is a common marking found in the terns. The bill is a bright orange/red with a dark black tip, and the legs are orange/red. The Forster’s Tern is considered a medium sized tern with a length of approximately 14” and a wing span from 28-32”.
When in flight this species is very fast and when it spots its prey in the water below, it will hover with wings rapidly beating and once it confirms its target, the Forster’s Tern makes a deep dive into the water and surfaces with its prey. Their normal foods consist of fish such as the Atlantic Silversides, yet they will also eat a variety of insects and even Sand worms.
The aerobatic abilities of this species are amazing to watch as they speed along, twist, turn and dive, and in the next moment they are off to another area to search for food.
The following link can provide additional information relative to the Forster’s Tern and its habitat: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/forsters_tern/id