Feb 20 2010

King and Queen

Published by at 7:13 am under Beyond Bounds,Water and Shore

Pair of Royal Terns in New Jersey (photo by Kim Steininger)
Speaking of crests, as I did yesterday, here are a couple of crested characters.

These royal terns are common on our southern coasts and found year-round on the coast of Florida.  Wherever they occur they’re hard to miss because they’re very noisy and highly social.  They always have something to say and someone to say it to.

Both of their given names are a puzzle to me.  Why are they called Sterna maxima (largest tern) when Caspian terns are larger?  According to Cornell’s Birds of North America, these are the largest crested terns though to my eye Caspians have crests too, they’re just shorter.  

And why are they called “royal?”  Perhaps because their crests suggest a royal crown.  The royal theme carries through to their collective name.  A group of royal terns is called a “highness of terns.”

So here they are, a royal highness.  I can’t tell which one is king and which the queen, they look too much alike.

(photo by Kim Steininger)

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