At the northernmost tip of North Beach at Fort De Soto, a magical white beach and blue-green water form a photography paradise. Especially in mid-April when a flock of Royal Terns hangs out on the new sandbar. These birds have courtship on their minds…
Tern courtship is fun to watch. The female dances around the male, poking at his beak, begging for a fish. She lets out a little nah-nah-nah call that sounds like a baby bird.
Overhead, males fly in with fish. The fish are a present for their prospective mates. But to successfully deliver the gift, the terns have to outsmart the gulls who chase behind them to steal the fish. Apparently it’s easier to steal a fish than to catch one yourself!
After delivering the fish, the male begins a courtship dance. My mom always asks why I want to photograph that. It’s fun! Lots of flapping wings and fun expressions. The females are so tolerant of the antics of the males.
Terns are pretty shameless. They live in colonies and breed in colonies. So I have to chuckle when one pair are doing their “piggyback ride” and a third tern flies in to interrupt. Let’s just say there was a lot of wing-flapping and fussing!
Here a tern throws his head to the sky in a courtship gesture. I wonder if he noticed that the birds with fish got more attention from the ladies!
I settled down in the sand, taking advantage of a small slope at the water’s edge to get at a very low angle. This pair looked like they were interested, and then suddenly one of them flew away. Rude!
Apparently this female wasn’t interested in the male’s advances. She left him in mid-leap!
Finally the birds fly off, and I spot a Reddish Egret dancing in the surf. There’s always something fun to photograph at Fort De Soto!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Fort De Soto?
Check out my Fort De Soto page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!