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Tern Facts You Might Not Know
By Kyle Carlsen
Assistant Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest
Spend enough time around water, and you will see some terns. These slender seabirds patrol watery habitats around the world, twisting and turning in the air before plunging headfirst into the sea. Most are white with narrow wings and long, forked tails. Their graceful flight has earned them the nickname "sea swallows." You have probably seen many of them while watching for birds around lakes, rivers, marshes, and coastal areas, but what do you know about them? It's time to test your tern knowledge.
How many tern species exist worldwide?
a) About 12
b) About 20
c) About 45
d) More than 60
Which tern has the longest annual migration of any animal in the world?
a) Whiskered tern
b) Sandwich tern
c) Royal tern
d) Arctic tern
Which is the world's largest tern?
a) Elegant tern
b) Gull-billed tern
c) Caspian tern
d) Royal tern
Which tern stays mostly in North America throughout the year?
a) Royal tern
b) Forster's tern
c) Least tern
d) Sandwich tern
Where do terns nest?
a) On open ground
b) On tree branches
c) On gravel roofs
d) All of the above
Terns are closely related to gulls and what other types of birds?
True or False?
Terns are found on every continent.
What do terns eat?
a) Small fish
b) Aquatic insects
d) All of the above
What type of tern is this?
a) Inca tern
b) Peruvian tern
c) Black tern
d) Whiskered tern
Christine Goff, the award-winning author of international thrillers as well as the Birdwatcher's Mystery series, is back with a new, original, bird-themed mystery exclusively for the readers of BirdWire! Upon publication in BirdWire, each installment of "Death of a Flycatcher" will be posted at birdwatchersdigest.com/ DeathOfAFlycatcher, so you can catch up or encourage a friend to start reading. For more information on Goff and her novels, visit christinegoff.com.
The story so far: U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent Angela Dimato is accompanying a group of volunteers on a habitat restoration project via raft in remote western Colorado. Their objective: remove invasive, exotic tamarisk trees and reintroduce native plants, with the goal of improving habitat for native wildlife, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The group happens upon the camp of two fugitive bank robbers, heavily armed. To avoid panic among the volunteers, Angela reveals the situation only to Kate, the crew chief. When they attempt to call the police, they discover the satellite phone to have been smashed to pieces. Who is responsible: the fugitives, or a saboteur among the work crew? At dawn the next morning, gunshots crack the air: All three rafts have been hit and deflated. The volunteers are alarmed, and Angela explains the situation. The only way out of the canyon is to hike, which would put the crew in the line of fire. They concoct and implement a plan: Danimal retrieves supplies from the rafts; she and Kate head downstream, hoping to distract the shooter; Greg hightails it to a path that leads to nearby town, where he will get help. Another gunshot pierces the air, followed by a scream! Someone has been shot! Angela and Kate rush back to the campsite; Greg and Julia are missing! Angela and Dan follow Greg's footprints, and in a half mile, the prints turn to drag marks, and blood. They find Greg crumpled behind a pile of boulders, a bullet in his thigh and in shock. As Dan approaches to lift his brother to his back, he stops: A rattlesnake is coiled next to Greg's head, and the hissing, rattling snake is clearly feeling threatened.
"Don't move!" Angela ordered, keeping her voice low and steady.
"What are we going to do?" Dan asked, freezing in place. Greg moaned again, and the snake rattled harder.
Angela reached for her 9mm, then thought better of it. The odds of her killing the snake with one shot were slim, and it might provoke the reptile to strike. If she could get behind it, she might be able to distract it.
Backing up, she stepped out from the shelter of the rocks and quickly glanced up toward the cliff top. The sun dropping low on the ridge blinded her, but she saw no sign of the sniper. Unlike the snake, he prowled the ridge, ready to strike without warning. The last thing she wanted was to end up like Greg, with a bullet in her leg. In reality, the fugitives were likely halfway to Utah by now, she hoped.
She looped the rocks. Finding a long stick, she positioned herself 180 degrees opposite Dan. "We're only going to get one shot at this," she said softly. "I'll try and make the snake turn. You grab Greg and pull him out of striking range."
"This is crazy," Dan said.
"You have a better idea?"
The snake had settled down, but hadn't backed away. When Dan shook his head, it rattled some more.
Angela tapped the rock with the stick. The snake lifted its head into defensive mode. She tapped again and its rattle buzzed at full speed, its full attention still on Greg. All she was doing was irritating the diamondback.
She leaned on the stick, then noticed that at its end, the wood formed a small hook. "Dan, I've got an idea. When I snag the snake, get Greg off the rocks."