36-38 cm (14-15") Common. Marshes, lakes, coast. Pigeon-sized bird with a deeply forked tail. White head with a black cap; orange-red bill with a black tip; white underparts; pale gray mantle, with frosty wing tips; gray white-edged tail; orange legs. Similar Common Tern has dusky wing tips and shorter legs and bill.
Winter adult similar to summer, but black cap replaced by narrow black eye patch.
Song: harsh nasal "za-a-ap" and high-pitched "kyarr".