Birds of Seabrook Island

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  Gull-billed Tern
 
 

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  Order Charadriiformes - Plovers, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Auks
   Family Laridae - Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers
      Subfamily Sterninae - Terns

  Charadriiforms are a diverse group of shore and aquatic or wading or terrestrial birds. They include the sandgrouse, shore birds, gulls and terns, and alcids. The majority breed in the Northern Hemisphere.
   The Tree of Life includes shorebirds with the Ciconiiformes.
Gulls and Terns are found along seacoasts and most inland bodies of water around the world.
Terns resemble gulls with pointed bills, shorter legs, and forked tails. The bill is straight and the upper maxilla does not overhang the mandible. There is no cere. Many plunge dive, often from a hovering position.  
     
     
  Gull-billed Tern, Gelochelidon nilotica
 
  Cornell     USGS    WIki     ToL     EoL
        SUMMER - Unommon (breeds) / Fairly Common (breeds)
           DUNES, ESTUARIES, LAGOON (coastal)
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   The Gull-billed Tern is a medium-sized tern (somewhat larger than the Forster's Tern) that feeds on insects and other invertebrates snatched from mudflats, dunes, and the upper beach. They fly gracefully over the myrtles and dunes while searching for food and are often seen from the beach. They may also rest in the lagoon or on the beach with other terns. They have a very pale gray mantle and a thick black bill and longer black legs. Adults have a black head and non-breeding adults have a gray eye-patch that is much less conspicuous than that of the Forester's Tern.
Gull-billed Tern
 

Gull-billed Terns. Beachwalker State Parker, Kiawak Island.
Note two Ruddy Turnstones and a dowitcher.
Photo by Ed Konrad

   
  RANGE: Gull-billed Terns breed locally in western North America. In the east, they range from Long Island south to Florida and west along the Gulf coast to southern Texas. It probably also breeds in the Bahamas and Virgin Islands. It winters from the Gulf coast and southern Florida south to Peru on the Pacific coast and northern Argentina on the Atlantic. The species is nearly worldwide in its distribution.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood. For a nest, Gull-billed Terns use a depression rimmed with sand and shells, often concealed in detritus. It is lined with shells and grass (or unlined). Both sexes build. Females lay 2-3 (1-4) eggs which both sexes incubate for 22-23 days. Eggs hatch asynchronously. Young are semiprecocial and leave the nest a few days after hatching. Both parents feed the chicks. Young are able to fly after 28-35 days (4-5 weeks). They may remain with their parents for at least 2-3 months.
   They may breed in colonies - often with Common Terns or Black Skimmers - or alone. They have a long-term pair bond and usually breed at 5 years of age.
  DIET: They feed mostly on insects but will eat spiders, frogs, crustaceans, bird eggs and young, and small mammals. They may dive for fish (rarely). They forage by flying slowly in to the wind and dipping to the surface to pick up food. They may also catch flying insects in the air.
  VOICE: Their call is a nasal yapping that is higher and sharper than the note of the Black Skimmer.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - uncommon spring through fall..
      Coastal - fairly common (local) summer resident. Hilton Head - fairly common summer resident. Huntington Beach - rare April - October.
   CBC: Charleston 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0;
             McClellanville 0, 0, 0, 0, nc, 0, 1, 0.
   P&G: Fairly common but local breeder on coast. Maximum 320, Raccoon Key, Charleston Co, summer 1973. Dates: 18 March - 30 December. Egg dates: 8 May - 18 July.
   M&P: Maximum number of nests, 340 at Cape Romain in 1972.
   Avendex: 12 records. Every month but April and October.
   Potter: Uncommon to fairly common summer resident from mid-April to September. First found breeding in South Carolina in 1929.
  ●  Gull-billed Terns breed on nearby Deveaux Bank. They are relatively common through the summer - you will probably see 1-3 or more on any beach visit at this time of the year and they will fly over you as you traverse the boardwalk through the myrtles to the beach... Look for their heavy dark bill. They are also  found loafing in the lagoon but are rare on the open beach.
       
    Banner - various shorebirds including three Gull-billed Terns, Lagoon, North Beach.
       
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