We were heading home from Monterey, CA looking for a Black Skimmer reported in the area around Seabright State Beach in Santa Cruz County, CA. We didn't see the Skimmer but there were 2000+ Elegant Terns on the beach in 2 flocks. We spent just about an hour mingling with the flock and the calls were continuous and fairly loud. This photo was taken with my standard hand held 500mm equivalent set up. Even with the fog I was able to use a 1/1250s shutter speed with f/7.1 and an ISO250 setting. To capture this shot, I was a little lucky in getting a nice composure of the bird in flight with nice wing spread but to get any shot you need to be there and ready camera in hand.
The Terns were in all stages of molting and in this photo you can see one about half way through the molt and one still in mostly breeding plumage. There were also a number of immature Terns in the group with adults coming and going returning with fish for the young (for additional photos visit my Flickr site https://www.flickr.com/photos/byjcb/14831382092/).
The Elegant Tern has a Near Threatened status due to limited breeding areas. Elegants breed along the Pacific coast from south California to the southern tip of Baja California and in the Gulf of California, Mexico. About 95% breed on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California with at least three other Mexican islands being used occasionally. In addition, small populations breed on Bolsa Chica and in San Diego bay. What is different about the Elegant Tern is that they move north along the US western coast during the fall and south along the west coast of South America after the breeding season unlike most northern birds that head south for the winter.
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