Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)

Little Tobago Island, Tobago

June 22, 2012

Bridled Tern

Nancy took this picture from a boat traveling from Trinidad to Tobago on a trip led by Brian Rapoza for the Tropical Audubon Society.

This is a widespread and faily common medium-sized tern (about 12" long with a 31" wingspan) that spends most of the year over warm waters around the globe, more likely offshore than in mid-ocean. They may be seen in Florida waters foraging along weed lines landward of the Gulfstream and closer to shore than the Sooty Terns. They are seldom seen from land, but a handful of pairs have nested in the Florida Keys since 1987. The Atlantic subspecies (O.a. melanopterus) breeds in Mexico, while the Caribbean and West African subspecies (O.a. nelsoni) breeds along the west coast of Mexico and Central America.

Bridled Terns are almost never seen resting on the water, preferring to perch on driftwood or floating debri. They feed by dipping down from low flight to get food on the surface, seldom plunge diving. They nest in colonies on islands with areas of rock rubble, limestone caves, bushes, or other shelter. They lay one egg.

The generic name for this species is derived from the ancient Greek words onyx, meaning claw or nail and prion, meaning saw. The species name (anaethetus) means senseless or stupid.

Photographic details: Canon EOS 7D camera w/ EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens set at 400mm. Off-camera flash was used. Camera was on f/5.6 for 1/2000 second at ISO 800. Exposure was decreased 1½ stops in post-processing.

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