Terns that visit or breed in the UK tend to be similar in appearance with a black head and white and grey body with a medium sized beak ideal for catching small fish near the waters surface. They are very often always near the sea and are very agile in the air so they can watch along the water. Most likely bird to be spotted is the Arctic Tern with reasonable breeding numbers across various coastal locations and yet you may also see the Common Tern, though alot less common, on inland water such as those of Scotland.
List of Types of Terns
Arctic Tern Bird
Fish is eaten by the Arctic Tern. Located in more Northerly coastal parts of Britain. The nest is a scrape in the ground. Fifty thousand or more breeding pairs each year in the UK. Similar to the Common Tern with it's black head and light body they have a totally red bill (as opposed to Common Terns black tipped beak) and shorter red legs. Two eggs are common in a clutch which are tended by both parents. Once hatched the young can swim in just a couple of days. Includes Arctic Tern bird call.
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Black Tern Bird
As well as eating fish Black Terns will also eat insects and invertebrates particularly in low level water. Passing migrants that are best seen in the southern half of England mainly. They like to build nests in muddy areas among wetlands. The Black Tern doesn't tend to have breeding site yet many thousands may fly over Britain on route. A small bird like the Little Tern it is darker (hence it's name) with a black body and darker grey wingspan. Chicks are more gold/brown than other Tern chicks with dark blotches. Sharing the incubation of the eggs, typically a clutch of three eggs will hatch within sixteen days. Includes Black Tern bird call.
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Common Tern Bird
Like many terns the Common Tern eats lots of fish. Visible in many coastal areas in Britain but also inland in Scotland and Ireland. The nest is a scrape within the ground made simply with a few strands of nearby plant foliage. As the name suggests these birds are one of the more largely populated breeding terns within the UK. Again, with the black head and grey body with white underside, the Common Tern has longish red legs (longer than Arctic Tern) and a long narrow red coloured beak with a black tip (same for chicks). Chicks are light brown mottled with black. Juveniles have brown bars on their back. Two to three eggs are laid. Includes Common Tern bird call.
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Little Tern Bird
Fish is the staple diet of the Little Tern. Coastal birds across some parts of Britain. Eggs are often laid among shingle or stones along the beach which is hidden from predators. Only limited numbers of breeding pairs. A small member of the Tern bird family they have a black and eye stripes with black along the back of the wingspan. The beak is yellow along with their feet. The little tern has a shorter tail and a more rapid wing beat than larger Terns. Usually two, sometimes three eggs are laid which hatch in around three weeks, they can fly around 15 - 17 days. Includes Little Tern bird call.
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Roseate Tern Bird
The Roseate will mainly eat fish. Found only in very specific locations such as North East England and Eastern Ireland. The nests are made in coastal sites in limited parts of Britain. Very limited breeding pairs. Very similar to the Sandwich Tern, the Roseate Tern has light grey body and black head but has a slight rosy white breast and the bill is dark with red colouring. The young are similar in appearance but smaller than the Sandwich Tern. Normally only one egg is laid on the seashore or within a hollow of a rock. Includes Roseate Tern bird call.
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Sandwich Tern Bird
Sandwich Terns will eat worms, eels and various small fish. Dotted locations across Britain. Nests are built among colonies mainly on the coast of Great Britain, though sometimes more inland. Various colonies are going from strength to strength with the help of conservation and protected sites. In summer the Sandwich Tern has a strong black hear which becomes more speckled in winter time. They have a long narrow beak with a yellow tip. The bulk of the neck is white with a shaggy chest and grey body with blackish feet. Male and Female are similar. The chicks have more brown sandy coloured fluffy or spiky plumage. Both male and female Sandwich Tern incubate their eggs though the male will forage for various nearby food sources. They hatch in one to two weeks and they will be able to fly within five weeks. Includes Sandwich Tern bird call.
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