Any of about 40 species (subfamily Sterninae, family Laridae) of slender, web-footed, migratory water birds found almost worldwide. Species vary from 8 to 22 in. (20–55 cm) long. The plumage is white, black-and-white, or black; the sharply pointed bill is black, red, or yellow; and the feet are red or black. Most species have long, pointed wings and a forked tail. Terns plunge into the water to catch crustaceans and fishes. They breed colonially, usually on the ground on islands. See also Arctic tern.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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