Basic plumage, Dana Point, Orange Co., 8-07. © John  C. Avise.

Elegant Tern

Sterna elegans

Charadriiformes; Laridae

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Elegants and Royals can be difficult to distinguish.  Elegants have a slightly longer and thinner bill, are generally more gracile in body shape, and have a slightly longer crest.  Both are easy to distinguish from the Caspian tern, which has a heavy ruby-red (rather than orange) bill and a somewhat less deeply forked tail.

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Alternate plumage, Bolsa Chica, Orange Co., 6-07. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumge, Huntington Beach, Orange Co., 4-06. © John  C. Avise.

Basic plumage, Santa Barbara, CA., 10-06. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumage, Bolsa Chica, Orange Co., 7-06. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumage, Bolsa Chica, Orange Co., 6-07. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumage, Bolsa Chica, Orange Co., 6-07. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumage, Bolsa Chica, Orange Co., 6-07. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumage, Santa Ana River mouth, Orange Co., 3-06. © John  C. Avise.

Alternate plumage, Santa Ana River mouth, Orange Co., 3-06. © John  C. Avise.