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July 3, 2012
IUCN Status: Least Concern
The Common Tern is 31--35 cm (12.2--13.8 in) long, including a 6--9 cm (2.4--3.5 in) fork in the tail, with a 77--98 cm (31--39 in) wingspan. It weighs 110--141 g (3.9--5.0 oz). Breeding adults have pale grey upperparts, very pale grey underparts, a black cap, orange-red legs, and a narrow pointed bill that can be mostly red with a black tip, or all black, depending on the subspecies. Juvenile Common Terns have pale grey upperwings with a dark carpal bar. The crown and nape are brown, and the forehead is ginger, wearing to white by autumn. The upperparts are ginger with brown and white scaling, and the tail lacks the adult's long outer feathers. Birds in their first post-juvenile plumage, which normally remain in their wintering areas, resemble the non-breeding adult, but have a duskier crown, dark carpal bar, and often very worn plumage. By their second year, most young terns are either indistinguishable from adults, or show only minor differences such as a darker bill or white forehead.