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Diving into the juvenile Marsh Terns identification
Written by Menno van Duijn
In late summer (August-September) one can see marsh terns like Black-, White-winged- and Whiskered Tern on their roosting and foraging site predominantly along the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea. By that time the adults have started moulting to their winter plumage, starting from their heads. These adults often still show the easy features to recognise them but the juveniles are more challenging.
All three can be seen together with Black Tern being the most common. Best sites are along the Afsluitdijk. Large flocks can be found foraging near the locks when the water moves in or out with the tide. And at the end of the day these groups gather at the sand banks to roost. Black Tern is the most abundant but a trained eye can pick out a White-winged Tern or Whiskered Tern.
In order to help you out we’ve made a short list of each species to help you find one of two scarcer species in their juvenile plumage in flight and settled. All three species can be confused with first calendar year Common or Arctic Tern but all are smaller and those two mainly have two-coloured bill (orange base and dark tip) and longer (outer) tail feathers.
More detailed id-article of British Birds
Resting (photo Rico Otten)
In flight (photo Thomas van der Es)