tern


tern
tern1
/terrn/, n.
any of numerous aquatic birds of the subfamily Sterninae of the family Laridae, related to the gulls but usually having a more slender body and bill, smaller feet, a long, deeply forked tail, and a more graceful flight, esp. those of the genus Sterna, as S. hirundo (common tern), of Eurasia and America, having white, black, and gray plumage.
[1670-80; < Dan terne or Norw terna; c. ON therna]
tern2
/terrn/, n.
1. a set of three.
2. three winning numbers drawn together in a lottery.
3. a prize won by drawing these.
[1300-50; ME terne < MF < It terno < L ternus, sing. of terni three each, triad, akin to ter thrice; see THREE]

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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.

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bird
 any of about 40 species of slender, graceful water birds that constitute the subfamily Sterninae, of the family Laridae, which also includes the gulls. Terns inhabit seacoasts and inland waters and are nearly worldwide in distribution. The largest number of species is found in the Pacific Ocean. Many terns are long-distance migrants, the most notable being the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea). The Arctic tern breeds in the southerly reaches of the Arctic and winters in Antarctic regions, thus making the longest annual migration of any bird.

      Terns range in length from about 20 to 55 cm (8 to 22 inches). Compared with gulls, they are more slender, shorter legged, and longer winged. They range in colour from white to black and white to almost entirely black. The bill of various species may be black, red, or yellow, while the feet are red or black. Their feet are webbed. Most species have long and pointed wings, forked tails, and sharply pointed bills.

      Terns sometimes eat insects, but the bulk of their diet consists of crustaceans and small fish, which they catch by diving through the air and plunging into the water. Terns are gregarious birds and breed colonially, usually on the ground on islands. Sometimes they form breeding colonies of millions of individuals. Most species lay two or three eggs, although a few species lay only one egg. In some parts of the world tern eggs are gathered for human consumption.

      There are five species of noddy terns, or noddies, belonging to the genus Anous. Noddies, named for their nodding displays, are tropical birds with wedge-shaped or only slightly forked tails. A distinct type of tern, the Inca tern (Larosterna inca), of Peru and northern Chile, bears distinctive white plumes on the side of the head.

      The most typical terns are the approximately 30 species of the genus Sterna, with forked tail, black cap or crest, and pale body. The black tern, S. nigra (sometimes Chlidonias niger), about 25 cm (10 inches) long, with a black head and underparts (white below in winter) and gray wings and back, breeds in temperate Eurasia and North America and winters in tropical Africa and South America. It is called a marsh tern because it nests inland on freshwater marshes and around lakes. The common tern (S. hirundo) is about 35 cm (14 inches) long and has a black cap, red legs, and a red bill with a black tip. It breeds throughout northern temperate regions and winters on southern coasts. The least, or little, tern (S. albifrons), under 25 cm (10 inches) long, is the smallest tern. It breeds on sandy coasts and river sandbars in temperate to tropical regions worldwide except South America. The sooty tern (S. fuscata), about 40 cm (16 inches) long, has a white forehead and is otherwise black above and white below. It breeds in huge, noisy colonies on oceanic islands in warm regions.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tern — (t[ e]rn), n. [Dan. terne, t[ae]rne; akin to Sw. t[ a]rna, Icel. [thorn]erna; cf. NL. sterna.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of numerous species of long winged aquatic birds, allied to the gulls, and belonging to {Sterna} and various allied genera. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tern — Tern, a. [L. pl. terni three each, three; akin to tres three. See {Three}, and cf. {Trine}.] Threefold; triple; consisting of three; ternate. [1913 Webster] {Tern flowers} (Bot.), flowers growing three and three together. {Tern leaves} (Bot.),… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tern — TERN, Ă, terni, e, adj. (livr.) Fără luciu, şters, spălăcit; fig. fără relief, fără culoare; mohorât, monoton. – Din fr. terne. Trimis de ana zecheru, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  TERN adj. v. anost, banal, comun, monoton, placid, plictisitor,… …   Dicționar Român

  • Tern — Tern, n. [F. terne. See {Tern}, a.] That which consists of, or pertains to, three things or numbers together; especially, a prize in a lottery resulting from the favorable combination of three numbers in the drawing; also, the three numbers… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tern — (n.) gull like shore bird (subfamily Sterninae), 1670s, via E.Anglian dialect, from a Scandinavian source (Cf. Dan. terne, Swed. tärna, Færoese terna) related to O.N. þerna tern, cognate with O.E. stearn starling …   Etymology dictionary

  • tern — sb., en el. et, er el. tern, e(r)ne …   Dansk ordbog

  • tern — Mot Monosíl·lab Nom masculí …   Diccionari Català-Català

  • tern — [tə:n US tə:rn] n [Date: 1600 1700; Origin: From a Scandinavian language] a black and white sea bird that has long wings and a tail with two points …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • tern — [ tɜrn ] noun count a bird that lives by the ocean. It is similar to a SEAGULL …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • tern — ► NOUN ▪ a seabird resembling a gull but smaller and more slender, with long pointed wings and a forked tail. ORIGIN Scandinavian …   English terms dictionary

  • tern — [tʉrn] n. [< ON therna, via E Anglian dial.; akin to OE stearna] any of several shorebirds (family Laridae) with webbed feet, a deeply forked tail, a straight bill, and a slender body; sea swallow …   English World dictionary


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