National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada
Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan
Common tern (Sterna hirundo)
© Parks Canada / Dorothea Kappler, 1995
Any small seabird with a forked tail found over the water and calling stridently is usually a tern, and common terns are the most widely distributed of this group in Canada. When feeding, terns hover with rapid wing beats. As soon as they spot a school of fish near the surface, they make a swift, shallow dive, snatching their prey in passing and emerging from the water to swallow it.
The Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) is very similar in size and appearance to the common tern, though as a rule, it breeds further north than the common and undertakes a more extensive migration, going from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back.