Sandwich Tern in flight with prey

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Sandwich Terns/Sandwich Tern in flight with prey

Sandwich Tern in flight with preySandwich Tern in flight with prey – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavida ) image was taken at Fort De Soto County Park’s north beach several years ago, it was a breezy, very warm day and there were schools of baitfish running just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a great day for practicing handheld flight photography.

Learning how to photograph birds in flight is definitely a challenge because you have to track the bird with your lens, anticipate what the bird might do or what direction it might fly. Then add exposure, shutter speed and locking on focus to that to achieve satisfactory results.

In a post titled “So ya think ya want to be a Bird Photographer” I mention several times that a bird photographer needs to practice, practice, practice and that is especially true of birds in flight. I also mention that bird photographers need tons of patience, probably more than you know.

If you live in an area where there are high numbers of birds, for instance; gulls, ducks or terns, you have great opportunities to practice with these birds in flight because there are so many of them and they take flight often. If you mess up another one will be flying by shortly. So my advice for those who are new to bird photography is to practice with local birds until you start nailing flight shots and delete the bad ones.


Recently the AOU (American Ornithologists’ Union) changed the genus from Sterna to Thalasseus. These terns were originally called Cabot’s Terns but the common name changed to Sandwich Tern with the American Ornithologists’ Union 5th Edition (1957). The common name may change again because there are Sandwich Terns in both North America and in Europe but until that happens officially it is best; as it always is, to use the current common name found in up to date bird guides, BNA and the AOU so that novice birders and the general public know the current correct name. 


  1. Susan October 12, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Beautiful image Mia, and you are so right about the practice and patience, but the more you do the more you are rewarded 🙂

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Thank you Susan, I probably practiced myself into an addiction to bird photography!

  2. Jim Braswell October 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Great catch, Mia!

    • Mia McPherson October 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Thanks Jim, the tern did a great job of catching too 🙂

  3. Bob Bushell October 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm


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