Among the ranks of the "specialty" birds found in California is the Elegant Tern. They don't get as much attention as that other "elegant" bird over in Arizona...you know what I'm talking about here, nerds...but they are loveable nonetheless.
Elegant Terns come in relative abundance for most of the year, and they bring a lot of life (and noise) to the south coast in spring and summer, where they have a few breeding colonies in San Diego and Orange Counties. Indeed, I owe the Elegant colony of Bolsa Chica a lot, for they hosted the only Sooty and Sandwich Terns I have ever seen in California (which I saw on the same day, no less). In fall they move northward (as many Mexican birds are prone to do), but go south of the border when winter comes.
Being a seabird, terns take to the air in order to win the hearts and cloacas of the opposite sex. For much of the spring you could see them doing their tear-jerkingly graceful courtship flights over places like the mouth of the Tijuana River and the J Street Mudflats.
Some of their mid-air moves are quite impressive.
Fact: I have seen Elegant Terns having sex more than any other species of bird. Take from that what you will. I like what's happening over there on the right.
It is easy forget that the total population of Elegant Terns is relatively small (<100,000 individuals) and that they only nest at a handful of colonies, the vast majority of which is on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California.
Elegants lack the legal status of Least Terns, the celebrity of Arctic Terns and the massive bulk of Caspian Terns, and they look appallingly similar to Royal Terns, but....and this will make sense to some of you...and by all means read this next part with a deliberate, but overly enthusiastic Tennessee accent...they are another shining example of California's Gold.