On a recent all-too-brief visit to that Mecca of birding in my home borough I was doing my best to get some good flight shots of the Forster’s Terns, Common Terns, and Least Terns that were frequenting both the West Pond and the bay across the trail.  I didn’t get much that was usable, but I did get one shot that really confuses me.  Until I got home and uploaded my images to a computer I had no idea I had captured such an odd image and since then I have stared at it and pondered what, exactly, the tern is doing.  Before I go further I will share two differently cropped versions of the same image.

The image does not make sense.  The wings seem to be in the correct position but both the front and the back of the bird are rolling.  Why?  What is going on here?  Is this Forster’s Tern about to do a barrel roll?  Help!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.