Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family
Description ADULT Uniform gray-brown on back and upperside of inner wing, contrasting with dark outer half of wing and trailing margin of inner wing. Cap is dark and neck and underparts are whitish, with faint yellow flush on cheeks seen at close range. JUVENILE Variably gray-brown, with some individuals being rather dark. Note relatively long and rather wedge-shaped tail; pale morph juvenile has pale belly and nape with a hint of a darker breast band. Compared to juvenile Parasitic, bill is stubbier, outer half being darker than inner half (dark-tipped in juvenile Parasitic); pale morph juvenile is grayer overall than juvenile Parasitic, and pale "wedge" is often obvious on nape.
Dimensions Length: 21" (53 cm)
Habitat Common and widespread Arctic tundra breeding species. Otherwise, exclusively pelagic and mostly offshore, even during migration. Winters at sea, mainly south of equator.
Observation Tips Easy to see on Arctic breeding grounds. Pelagic boat trips, typically venturing beyond sight of land, are required to see migrants (commonest May and Aug-Sep). Only very rarely seen from land or inland on migration, usually after severe gales.
Range California, Mid-Atlantic, Alaska, Great Lakes, Florida, New England, Western Canada, Eastern Canada, Southeast, Northwest
Voice Utters harsh anxiety calls on breeding grounds, but otherwise silent.
Discussion Elegant and distinctive seabird. Shares some characters with Parasitic, but relatively easy to identify, even distantly. In flight, has rather long, pointed wings that lack white patch seen on Parasitic's outer wing. Adult has extremely long central tail streamers. At close range, note dainty bill. Sexes are similar.