Volume 7, Plate 6

Great Tern
Lesser Tern
Short-tailed Tern
Black Skimmer
Stormy Petrel

Great Tern

The flight of the great tern is not in the sweeping shooting manner of the land swallows, notwithstanding their name; the motions of their long wings are slower, and more in the manner of the gull. They have, however, great powers of wing and strength in the muscles of the neck, which enable them to make such sudden and violent plunges, and that from a considerable height too, headlong on their prey, which they never seize but with their bills.

Lesser Tern

This beautiful little species looks like the preceding in miniature, but surpasses it far in the rich glossy satin-like white plumage with which its throat, breast, and whole lower parts are covered. Like the former, it is also a bird of passage, but is said not to extend its migrations to so high a northern latitude, being more delicate and susceptible of cold.

Black Skimmer or Sheerwater

The singular confirmation of the bill of this bird has excited much surprise; and some writers, measuring the divine proportions of nature by their own contracted standards of conception, in the plentitude of their vanity have pronounced it to be "a lame and defective weapon." Such ignorant presumption, or rather impiety, ought to hide its head in the dust on a calm display of the peculiar construction of this singular bird, and the wisdom by which it is so admirably adapted to the purposes or mode of existence for which it was intended. The sheerwater is formed for skimming, while on the wing, the surface of the sea for its food, which consists of small fish, shrimps, young fry, &c., whose usual haunts are near the shore and toward the surface. That the lower mandible, when dipt into and cleaving the water, might not retard the bird's way, it is thinned and sharpened like the blade of a knife; the upper mandible being, at such times, elevated above water, is curtailed in its length, as being less necessary, but tapering gradually to a point, that, on shutting it may offer less opposition.