Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version


Document Type



Rehme, Labedz, and Paseka, “First Nebraska Record for the Royal Tern (Sterna maxima) and a Review of Regional Records” from Nebraska Bird Review (March 2008) 76(1).


Copyright 2008 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


On the afternoon of 8 Sept 2007, Don and Janis Paseka discovered a large tern on the causeway that separates Lake North from Lake Babcock, north of Columbus, Platte County, Nebraska. The causeway consists of a road next to Lake North and a low cement wall next to Lake Babcock. They observed the tern at approximately 1630 CDT standing on the low wall, on the west side of the causeway. The tern remained standing on the wall as they drove to within 15 feet and photographed it. The tern was standing with its wings drooping (Photo 1), and the fact that it allowed such a close approach indicated that it was in some distress, although there were no obvious injuries. The Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) is the expected large tern species in Nebraska, but it was soon apparent from the white forehead, black crest, and the size and color of the bill that this was not a Caspian but a Royal Tern (Sterna maxima). After the initial sighting on 8 Sept 2007, the bird was observed and photographed on 9 Sep by multiple observers (NEbirds 2007). The bird was observed by Sarah Rehme on 9 Sep to be dragging its wings on the ground and stumbling, but it was still able to fly. This is the first documented occurrence of a Royal Tern in Nebraska (Sharpe et al. 2001). The tern was found dead at about 1330h, 10 Sept by William Flack. The carcass was salvaged by Rehme at 1500h on the same day under authorization of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The carcass was donated to the University of Nebraska State Museum.