This morning I birded Pine Lake Preserve in Bontia Beach. I had a great morning. I retuned home for lunch and casually checked the Florida Rare Bird alerts in Ebird. I found that an Elegant Tern had been found and well photographed on Siesta Key near Sarasota yesterday. I headed right out to try for the bird, two hours north of us. I arrived at Siesta Key Beach and began searching for the bird. I found three other birders searching as well. They hadn’t found the bird but informed me that photographers had seen and photographed it just two hours ago. We split up and searched the abundance of gulls, skimmers and terns. Only ten minutes later I found a “Tern”. I alerted the other birders which had increased by several and they came to see the bird. My problem with the bird was that the bill was yellow/green. The Elegant photographed yesterday had a bright orange bill. The number of birders continued to increase until there were well over a dozen birders watching the tern. I finally suggested that this was not an Elegant Tern. Though I had never seen one, this bird matched the ID of a CAYENNE TERN! There was considerable discussion about the identity of the bird. There were good points on all sides and I asked if anyone knew any of the birders who had found the bird and seen it well yesterday. One did, and she said one of them was on the way. A woman arrived who declared the bird the same as the bird they saw yesterday. I still couldn’t by it. I had studied the photos in depth and knew the bill color was all wrong. Many birders left, convinced they had seen the Elegant. They had indeed seen something special. I finally got back home, studied all my photos and checked the internet on both Elegant and Cayenne Terns. It was abundantly clear that this was a CAYENNE TERN! Here is the problem. The ABA/AOU currently don’t accept that the two birds are different species. Most of the rest of the world already separates them and they are considered two species. The stand of the ABA/AOU is that though they agree there are differences in the DNA, they don’t know If it is enough to declare them separate species. In my humble opinion, they should be split. You be the judge. Check out my photos and tell me if you think you are looking at a Sandwich Tern. Please let me know your thoughts.
Just to clarify, This bird was deemed to be an “Elegant Tern”, my bad!