Definition of common tern
: a widely-distributed, medium-sized tern (Sterna hirundo) with a white, deeply forked tail and during the breeding season a black cap, orange-red black-tipped bill, and orange-red feet Roseate terns can be differentiated from common terns by their lighter gray backs and wings, longer outer tail feathers that extend past wing tips when sitting, longer, red-orange legs, and, at the beginning of the breeding season, by their black bills.— Paul E. Kandarian, The Boston Globe, 29 Sept. 2002
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