Royal Terns in breeding and nonbreeding plumage

Royal Tern in nonbreeding plumageRoyal Tern in nonbreeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Just a simple post today to show the differences in the breeding and nonbreeding plumage of Royal Terns. Royal Terns are “Crested Terns”, in this image the crest isn’t visible. The white on the top of this terns head indicates that it is in nonbreeding plumage.

Royal Tern in breeding plumageTern in breeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm at 400mm, natural light

The shaggy crest is visible in this image and the black extends from the bill to just under the eye and to the tips of the crest. In some adult Royal Terns the bill can be more red than this adult.


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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. Wonderful Mia, nice low angle on the non-breeding :)

  2. Excellent Images Mia. Love the first guy!! ( Can you post some bad ones so I can say something different ;)

  3. Excellent captures! They look so sharp in their breeding plumage!!

  4. Oh, that’s nice. Fantastic photos of the Royal Terns.

  5. Beautiful photos! We used to live on a boat in Florida, so I love all your photos of sea birds and shore birds. We sailed out to the Dry Tortugas, one of the few nesting sites of the Sooty Terns and Noddy Terns. It was a spectacular sight, though quite noisy.

    • Libby,

      I wish i had gone to the Dry Tortugas while I lived in Florida because of the fantastic birds that nest there and the migrants too. Living on a boat must have been great fun! thanks so much for commenting.

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