Forster’s Tern

Sterna forsteri

Terns are related to gulls, but smaller and more angular-looking, with distinctly forked tails. The Forster’s Tern is the species seen most often in Southern California. They are most numerous here during winter, hovering over the lagoon at high tide as they scan for fish. You can distinguish the Forster’s Tern from other terns by its black bill, orangy legs, and thick black eye shadow.

Fun Fact:
Identify this tern by its long forked tail, black bill, and dramatic black eye patch.

What’s for Lunch:
Small fish and insects

Where’s Home:
Feeds in the lagoon in fall and winter. In summer, most join large breeding colonies in freshwater marshes farther north in the U.S. and Canada.