Thursday, July 06, 2006

Arctic terns in Helsinki

We have just been away for a week for my brother's wedding in Finland. Before posting anything else about the wedding, I must put up a couple of photos of an absolutely stunning bird I saw: an arctic tern sitting on a rock barely metres away from the shore round the back of the hotel where the wedding reception was held.

Arctic terns are beautiful. In flight they are deliciously elegant, even more so than the common tern which in turn (forgive the pun) is vastly more graceful than any gull.

We do get arctic terns in the UK, but they are rather elusive (I've never seen one). Common terns are much commoner!

Arctic terns are difficult to distinguish from common terns, but the following features are indicative:

1. arctic terns have very short legs

2. the arctic tern's tail streamers extend beyond the wings when standing

3. the arctic tern's bill is a deeper shade of red while the common's also usually has a black tip

4. the arctic tern's underparts are slightly greyer

5. the arctic tern's head is slightly rounder

Most of these features, but especially 1 and 2, are just about evident from the closeup photo.

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