Royal Terns Courting in Florida

Royal Tern in breeding plumage with gift for mateRoyal Tern in breeding plumage with gift for mate – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

After seeing several of my Florida friends posting images of courting Royals Terns recently because it is that time of year I decided to dig into my archives and retrieve some of my own photos of Royal Terns courting at Fort De Soto to share today.

Male Royal Terns usually bring a small fish as a gift for the females when they are courting. This male had flown in and was keeping an eye on the female when I photographed him with his crest erect.

Royal Tern courtship behaviorRoyal Tern courtship behavior – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 200mm, natural light

Sometimes the male and female Royal Terns walk side by side through the flock as if they were in a parade.

Courting Royal Terns on the beachCourting Royal Terns on the beach – Nikon D200, handheld, f9, 1/750, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 220mm, natural light

Usually there is a lot of posturing by both sexes when courting on the ground and the males may circle the females.

Royal Tern strutting during courtship behaviorRoyal Tern strutting during courtship behavior – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Or the males might strut in front of the females and the rest of the flock while nodding their heads and calling.

Royal Terns courtingRoyal Terns courting – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/3000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

The “Circling” courtship behavior of Royal Terns was one that I found interesting because as the male circled the female she moved too and kept her sides facing him. I don’t recall ever photographing the Royal Terns mating on the beach but it is possible that I did and have just forgotten it and I didn’t have time this morning to go through all of my images.

I do not see Royal Terns in Utah and I miss them.

Life is good.


These images were taken in 2008 and 2009


  1. Utahbooklover April 27, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Aren’t birds just the greatest? Interesting images and enjoyed hearing them too. Thanks!

  2. Pepe Forte April 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Although I have heard of Royal Terns, I have never seen them up close and personal as you have presented them here. What incredibly interesting and striking birds. Beautiful shots. Thanks Mia.

  3. Elephants Child April 25, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    And like Patty, I love their do.

  4. Patty Chadwick April 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

    An interesting series…like their “hair do’s” …wonder if they use gel…or moose. 🙂

  5. Anita Cothern Austin April 25, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Interesting behavior. Read about the juvenile Royal Terns also. I have seen them on the barrier islands of the Gulf Coast for many years, but never watched their behavior. Probably interfered with them. Your camera work is good. Shooting handheld at 400mm can be difficult. Enjoy your time with nature.

  6. Roger Burnard April 25, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Mia, you have proved once again that one does not need the latest camera/lens
    gear to produce wonderful images. What it takes is the talent, and skills of the
    “person behind the camera.” Well done Mia, very well done. ;-)))

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