Gull v Tern

Mar 20, 2015, 7:00AM EST
Gull v Tern
Sea birds with a difference

 The gull is a sea bird of the family Laridae.  Its cousin the tern is a sea bird of the family Sternidae.  More distant relatives include auks, skimmers, and waders.  Gulls are larger than terns.  Feather coloration of the two species is similar – generally white or gray, often with darker head and wingtip feathers.  The tail feathers of the tern are relatively long and tend to be forked, unlike those of the gull.  The call of the gull is loud and squawking, while the tern is more subdued.  Gulls are ground-nesting carnivores that seldom venture far from shore.  While neither is tree-dwelling, the tern lays its eggs on bare ground, while the gull builds nests, often in large colonies.  The tern is more of a true sea bird, venturing far from shore and diving into the water to catch fish.  The gull does not dive for food, picking it from the surface or from on land.  The tern eats almost exclusively fish, while the gull is highly opportunistic.  The gull has a hooked beak, while that of the tern is straight.  The tern has short legs and webbed feet, but the gull has longer legs and its feet are not webbed.  The tern has relatively straight and pointed wings, while the wings of the gull are broader and tend to have a dog-leg at the midpoint or to be rounded.  The gull prefers short flights.  The tern on the other hand commonly travels long distances.  The Arctic tern holds the migration record for all animals.  It spends the northern hemisphere summer in the Arctic and then migrates to the Antarctic where it spends the southern hemisphere summer – a true snow bird (or winter-avoidance bird).  The average annual roundtrip for the Arctic tern commonly exceeds 44,000 miles, almost all of it over water.  

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