Population Estimate: 240K - 420K
Range / Habitat: Breeds at large inland lakes and ocean coasts in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia including New Zealand. North American birds migrate to southern coasts, the West Indies and northernmost South America. European and Asian birds spend the non-breeding season in the Old World tropics. African and Australasian birds are resident or disperse over short distance.
Field Notes: Largest of all terns, light-grey wings, black legs, black cap without crest in breeding season, massive red bill with black tip. Royal Tern (which only overlaps in a portion of the range) is smaller with crest and no black tip to the bill. Elegant Tern (which overlaps in an even smaller portion of the range) is smaller still with shaggy crest and lighter, thinner bill which is yellow at the tip and appears to droop.
Personal Notes: Top photo at Lake Bemidji, in fall migration. Bottom photo at Onoke Spit outside Wellington, protecting a nest. Maori name Taranui.