Date: 6/7/18 6:09 pm From: Shaibal Mitra <Shaibal.Mitra...> Subject: RE: [nysbirds-l] Nickerson Beach - Possible Common Tern (longipennis) Species - Comments and thoughts welcome
Dear Mike and all,
This is an interesting bird, and well worth careful discussion. The photos are, as is so often necessarily the case, not ideal for assessing wing pattern and structure, and several other features. To my eye, the combination of adult-like plumage, darkish bill, not so dark legs, and not very deeply gray underparts is consistent with an early season variation of adult hirundo Common Tern that we do see from time to time.
The jury is certainly still out on the status of longipennis Common Terns on the east coast, and in the past I have eBirded the ones I've seen under regular "Common Tern"--but with lots of notation and documentation. Based on the checklists you've linked from Jay and Michael, provisionally specifying this form, I agree it might be best to take this approach while we work things out. At least it would be easier to collect and access the evidence.
Anyway, two of the best (and earliest in NY) candidates for longipennis were birds at Cupsogue on 26 Jun 2011 and 24 Jun 2014. I've aggregated photos of these at the following link:
As you will see, these birds were not only different in soft parts colors and plumage from same-aged hirundo COTE, but also different in terms of structure and molt (as explained in part in the note to this listserv from 27 Jun 2011, copied at the end of this note).
I've seen a few more also, including these two I was able to find quickly just now:
It seems odd that the best candidates have always been second-summer (TY) birds, but there are two points worth emphasizing on this front. First, subadult terns are definitely proven to be prone to wander; second, these longipennis candidates differ very strongly in multiple ways from the range of variation I've documented in same-aged hirundo COTE over the past 20 years. The links in my copied email are long defunct, but I can direct those who are interested to long series of images of TY hirundo COTE from our area.
From: <bounce-122625024-3714944...> [<bounce-122625024-3714944...>] on behalf of Long Island Birding [<michaelzito...>]
Sent: Thursday, June 7, 2018 8:08 PM
Subject: [nysbirds-l] Nickerson Beach - Possible Common Tern (longipennis) Species - Comments and thoughts welcome
On 5/22 at Nickerson Beach I observed a Common Tern that stood out from the rest. It was the same size/shape as the other common terns, but the bill and legs were much darker.
I showed the bird to a friend who is an eBird reviewer and he suggested that it was a Common Tern (longipennis). He also mentioned that this particular subspecies has been previously reported on Long Island.
Looking up those reports, I found there were two entries with photos by Jay McGowan and Michael McBrien on eBird, described by both as exceedingly rare. Here are the checklists:
After seeing this I was surprised, because I have seen birds that looked like this before (even one yesterday). In the past I have heard them referred to as portlandica type birds, but it is my understanding that portlandica refers to first summer tern plumage, which this bird clearly was not (I would say it was also clearly not second summer tern plumage either.....). My report was not accepted to eBird as of yet, so it is not in eBird output, but here is the bird I saw (Pictures in the linked eBird checklist and short video in youtube):
Anyway I would like to hear any thoughts or comments. Thanks,
From: <bounce-37742728-11143133...> [<bounce-37742728-11143133...>] on behalf of Shaibal Mitra [<Shaibal.Mitra...>]
Sent: Monday, June 27, 2011 11:43 AM
To: NYSBIRDS (<NYSBIRDS-L...>)
Subject: [nysbirds-l] Possible Siberian Common Tern (S. h. longipennis) on Long Island
A second-summer type Common Tern present at Cupsogue, just east of Moriches Inlet, last weekend (25-26 June) resembled the Siberian subspecies of Common Tern (Sterna hirundo longipennis):
Bill black, with a slight red tinge
Legs dark reddish-black
Ventral body deeply gray, especially for a second-summer type individual
Wings appeared relatively long both at rest and in flight
Its wingtip pattern also differed from the typical summer pattern of local Common Terns in that all the primaries (except perhaps p10) appeared uniformly fresh and pale, but it is not very unusual for non-adults to vary in this regard.
In my experience, however, it is extremely rare to see such dark legs on any early summer Common Tern (even first summer birds), and it is also extremely rare to see an all-dark bill in combination with deeply gray underparts, at least prior to very late summer.
I've never seen longipennis in its core range and am unfamiliar with how to assess other published characters, such as its whiter inner rectrices and subtly different tertials, but the photos might help here (even its second-to-outermost rectrices appeared less extensively dark in the field than in many local Common Terns).
Longipennis is said to have a shorter bill than hirundo, but this bird's bill looked pretty similar in size to those of local birds.
I'm calling this bird a second-summer type because its forehead and its gray underbody were mottled to varying degrees with white. I first noticed it on Saturday but I was not able to get good photos. It was present again on Sunday and studied by at least 19 observers.