Last night I got this e-mail from Brad Waggoner who found and
photographed the tern from Bainbridge Island, WA:
Here is the problem as I see it from spending 20 minutes + with this
bird at a fairly close distance. If someone can definitively age this
thing as a juvenile, and then somehow explain all the seemingly
contradictory marks given their insistence that it is a juvenile, than I
guess would be somewhat reluctantly willing to accept this bird as a
juvenile Common Tern. But here is one in flight taken in
I certainly don't see anything like that in the flight shots of my tern.
I went away from Murden Cove with almost total confidence that I was
dealing with a 1st summer bird (not juv.). It lacked any of any sort of
patterning to wings in flight, primaries appeared uniformly gray like
mantle and coverts and scaps lacked of any sign of brown or white
edgings to make me think it was a juvenile. Then, to top it off, it had
a roundy head, small bill, and short dumpy legs and these things were
noted in direct comparison to nearby Common Terns. My gut reaction was
that it was a first-summer Arctic Tern, but I wanted to research it upon
coming home. I still think this is an Arctic Tern.
I also have looked at some pics provided from Steve Mlodinow of 1st year
Common Terns. I can't make the Murden Cove Tern fit for any of the wing
patterning and of course the bills all look "biggish", heads look long
and sloped. I would be happy to pass any along if so desired.
Here is just one more shot of the Murden Cove Tern that might help with
eliminating juvenile bird. And note how the coloration of primaries
matches that of coverts and rest of wing. I'm guessing it would be
difficult to place this as a trait of a Common Tern - no matter what age.
I've added the latest photo of the tern to the top of this page at my blog