Migrant – Common Tern

Common Terns migrate to and from Massachusetts and breed here in the summer. The Black Terns in previous posts are transient migrants who are briefly stopping on their way south. We are now seeing the juvenile terns from this summer’s breeding season. They are full grown and will be going south with the adults this fall. But they haven’t “left home” yet.

It is common for young birds to continue to look to their parents for support. I see it with all of the species that frequent my feeders, as well as the hawks that breed nearby. Young birds that are as big as their parents and are fully able to fly will follow the adults and beg for food. They flutter their wings, vocalize and open their mouths just as they did while in the nest. It takes some time before the parents stop responding to the open mouth and make the youngster completely fend for itself. This was the case for a young Common Tern that followed the parent as it flew back to the beach with its catch. It begged all the way to the beach and finally got the parent to surrender the fish it had caught. This is all instinctive behavior but feel free to frame it in human terms for fun if you like. The parent does look a bit frustrated to me.

The young bird will soon be totally independent since the adult will stop responding to the begging. I am pretty sure it can already start catching its own meal so it will be okay.

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