I’ve just spent two weeks in Florida the last half of August, this included on week on the coast on Treasure Island! An amazing time and a few hours spent each day wandering the beach at either dawn or dusk with the odd day time visit as well. Lovely weather and excellent views of loads of birds. I will post every few day a series of photos from specific species with any interesting observations I made.
First up is the Royal Tern of the american race maxima which I have seen before in St. Lucia but only a few distant birds so I did not exam them in much detail.
So with all the adults I saw in Florida all were in winter plumage, none showed any all black on the forehead. This is contra to the bird in Ireland which was had a summer plumage head. When was able to exam the adults in flight they all had dusky, to near black secondaries. This variation may be related to the angle of observation, light strength or age of the feathers. With older feathers becoming darker sooner than any fresher sets, in a similar to way Common Terns which have two sets of feathers moults in their primaries. Whence why the older outer primaries are darker than the newer fresher inner primaries.
What was my sample like? Well each day there would be anything from fifty American Royal Terns to up three hundred with anything from 50% to 70% adults. I walked the beach on most days twice so even with some of the birds being present on every visit there were still a good quantity of birds to examine. So the other question is how well did I took at them? Well I was after seeing and photographing any other species of tern so I had a good look. Plus I wanted to see if any summer plumage birds were present in the flocks as well. How close were they? Well you could walk past them at a few metres and most of the time they were right on top of me. Dare I say it again, amazing views!