Caspian TernSterna caspia Pallas
Status Rare transient. Three nineteenth-century reports are mentioned by Jones (1885) and Piers (1894). This bird has sometimes reached our shores as a storm-borne casualty. The storm which wracked our coast on 26 August 1924 was responsible for dead birds found near Prospect, Halifax County, on 28 August and at Cape Sable on 27 August. Hurricane "Gladys," which reached Nova Scotia on 21 October 1968, brought with it at least eight of these birds, reported from Chebucto Head, Halifax County, to Canso and on Sable Island. However, recent reports from all parts of the province suggest that Caspian Terns are regular spring and fall transients in small numbers. Since 1968 there have been nine reports of 17 birds between 20 April and 17 June and 14 reports of 17 birds between 29 June and 31 August.
Description Length: 48-58 cm. Adults in breeding plumage: A large white tern with a stout, red bill tipped with black; the complete black cap is retained for most of the breeding season and the forehead remains dusky in all plumages.
Range In North America, breeds inland from Great Slave Lake south to California, and in the Great Lakes, and on the coasts of the Carolinas and the Gulf of Mexico. A small population breeds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland. Widely distributed in the Old World.
Remarks This large tern can be distinguished from the Royal Tern by its stouter bill, darker forehead and duskier underwing tips. Most of our sightings are probably of birds going to and coming from colonies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence or Newfoundland.
Status Five records. The first was a female taken on Brier Island by Wickerson Lent on 1 October 1958 following a heavy gale which had lashed the coast a few days earlier. He collected another there on 13 September 1960 from a flock of four that appeared about four hours after hurricane "Donna" struck Digby Neck. Both specimens were presented to the Nova Scotia Museum. The third occurrence was reported in the aftermath of hurricane "Gladys" by Eric Mills, who saw three on 22 October 1968 "hurrying south" past Chebucto Head, Halifax County. Five birds on Sable Island were brought by storm-force winds on 16 August 1971 (D. Welsh). One at Three Fathom Harbour, Halifax County, on 20 July 1979 (J. Kearney, E.L. Mills) evidently was not associated with a tropical storm.
Remarks This large tern is very similar to the Caspian Tern (see Remarks for that species). It breeds from the Caribbean north to Maryland, and in western Mexico and western Africa.
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