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This Week’s Creature Feature: The Caspian Tern

Among terns, these regional rarities are the opposite of least 
      Over the past week, migrating Caspian terns have been flying around the Chesapeake Bay. These are the world’s largest tern. They have a 57-inch wingspan, making them larger than a ring-billed gull. The smallest tern, the least tern, has a mere 20-inch wingspan.
     Like all terns, Caspian terns have long, thin wings that carry them quickly and effortlessly over water. The Caspians are basically white except for black legs and feet, a black head cap and a large bright-red bill. They are almost exclusively fish-eaters. When hunting for fish, they fly quickly over the water, suddenly making turns to dive in, picking up a fish with their bill.
    Most of the Caspian terns seen lately are passing through to their nesting areas along the Great Lakes and the lakes of southern Canada. Rarely, a few have been reported making nests along the Chesapeake and the Susquehanna River. They lay three spotted eggs on a sandy shoreline in a scraped-out nest.  The young leave the parents’ care after 35 days.  
     Caspian terns exist almost worldwide and are thought to be a stable population in North American, though the population in Europe is dropping for unknown reasons.
      Terns are almost mesmerizing with their graceful flight, but their sudden drops into the water break the spell.
      Right now they can be seen winging along most beaches and tributaries. Sandy Point State Park or the North Beach Boardwalk are good places to find them.