Forster’s Terns

When I moved from Florida to Utah I felt it was fortunate that some of the nonbreeding birds I used to see in Florida during the winter I now get to see in breeding plumage on their nesting grounds.

Nonbreeding Forster's TernNonbreeding Forster’s Tern – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

The image above shows a nonbreeding Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri) that I photographed at Fort De Soto County Park in Florida during the month of February a few years ago. Note the dark bill and the dark mask with the pale nape on this bird.

Breeding Forster's Tern on nestBreeding Forster’s Tern on nest – Nikon D200, f8, 1/2000, ISO 320, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The photograph above was taken at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge in Utah of an adult Forster’s Tern in breeding plumage on a nest that this bird and its mate were building. Note the black cap and how the bill is now orange with a distinct black tip.

I wish I would have been able to photograph the Forster’s Terns as they raised their young but this was taken the day before the Bear River closed the roads for construction that summer. It was a real pity too because this nest was not far from the gravel road of the auto tour route. Barring any unforeseen flooding this year the roads should remain open and I might just get the opportunity to photograph these graceful terns with their young.



Additional posts you might enjoy:

About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Wow, the difference in field marks would make one think that these two birds are not the same species. Nice environment for both of these shots.

  2. Mia, I hope you get to see and photograph the young this season. I just love terns, and this photo does the Forster’s more than justice. They are among my favorite birds, and the unique situation you have, of shooting their breeding and non-breeding locations is just spectacular.

  3. Pingback: My Great Salt Lake: Lake Elevated

  4. Great photos Mia! Love that black cap on the breeding Tern.

  5. Every day I read your post and every day I’m amazed at your love of all of these beautiful birds. How you talk about their lives is so refreshing. Thank you so much. These images are so lovely. I wished I was there watching them. Carol

    • Carol, thanks for your wonderful comment on my posts and love for birds. I say that I am addicted to bird photography and I should mention more often how addicted to simply viewing birds in their natural habitat exhibiting natural behaviors.

  6. Very handsome, well photographed.

  7. Awesome photo! Wayne loves these guys. We had so much fun watching them that flooded spring. It brought sooooo many birds in. We saw one egret all winter. And that spring we saw nothing but egrets. I loved it.

Comments are closed