Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family
Description ADULT Pale phase has a whitish neck, breast, and belly, with variable yellow flush on cheeks and neck; has a dark cap and plumage is otherwise uniform dark gray-brown. Dark phase is uniformly dark gray-brown, darkest on cap. JUVENILE Variably rufous brown, palest and distinctly barred on belly, throat, and underwings. Compared to juvenile Pomarine, note rather dainty, dark-tipped pale bill and wedge-shaped tail that bears tiny, pointed central projections. Juvenile Long-tailed has longer, blunter tail projections.
Dimensions Length: 21" (53 cm)
Habitat Widespread and common breeding species in marshy tundra and coastal wetlands across North American Arctic. Common passage migrant in spring and fall down Atlantic seaboard and sometimes seen in coastal waters; very occasionally inland too. Winters at sea, mainly south of equator, but some remain as far north as Gulf of Mexico.
Observation Tips Easy to see on Arctic breeding grounds and on pelagic trips during migration. The most likely skua or jaeger species to be seen from land during migration, often harassing terns and other small seabirds.
Range Northwest, Plains, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, Alaska, New England, Great Lakes, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, California, Southeast
Voice Utters nasal calls near nest.
Discussion Elegant seabird with buoyant and graceful flight. Deep, powerful wingbeats and narrow, pointed wings can give it an almost falcon-like appearance, especially when aerobatically chasing seabirds such as Arctic Terns and kittiwakes, which it harasses into relinquishing last meal. All birds have a white patch near tip of wing (most noticeable on underwing), but only adults have pointed tail streamers that extend beyond wedge-shaped tail. Female is larger than male, but both occur in two color morphs and take 2 years to acquire full adult plumage.