SCIENTIFIC NAME: Thalasseus maxima
STATUS: Breeder. Common in all seasons in Gulf Coast region. Occasional in fall after storms inland, mostly in Mountain and Inland Coastal Plain regions.
DESCRIPTION: A large tern only exceeded in size by the Caspian tern. Adults are approximately 19 inches long with a wingspan of around 50 inches. Royal terns weigh from three-quarters to almost one pound. Breeding adults are white underneath with pale gray upperparts. Trailing edge of primary wing feathers is dark on the upper side. The head is topped with a black cap and crest. As the nesting season progresses, the forehead becomes more white and remains so through the non-breeding season. Royal terns have an orange bill and black legs. Immature birds retain a white forehead and have more brownish and darker wing feathers. The bill in young birds is more yellowish.