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any one bird of the subfamily Sterninae of the family Laridae of the order Charadriiformes. The body measures 20 to 55 cm long. The wings are long and narrow, and the tail is forked. The bill is pointed and, in contrast to that of the gulls, is not hooked. The tern’s flight is light and rapid. The bird is a good swimmer.
There are ten genera, comprising 43 species, which are widely distributed. In the USSR there are five genera, comprising ten species. Terns live on the shores of seas, small streams, and lakes. They usually nest in colonies on sand banks. Chlidonias species nest on overgrown lakes; some tropical terns (the genera Anous and Gygis) nest on bushes and trees. One to four eggs are laid per clutch and incubated 14 to 22 days. Terns feed primarily on aquatic insects and small fish; some species feed on lizards and locusts.
The most common species in the USSR are the common tern (Sterna hirundo), which is distributed throughout the country except the Far North; the arctic tern (S. paradisaea), which inhabits the northern part of the country and in the winter migrates to the South Atlantic; and the black tern (Chlidonias nigra), which inhabits the middle and southern belts (in the east as far as the Ob’ River).
REFERENCEPtitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 3. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Moscow, 1951.
A. I. IVANOV