Smaller than all the gulls, with thinner and more pointed bill. Distinguished from other terns by pale whitish wings and orange-based bill in summer, and isolated black ear patch in winter. Forages by circling and hovering over bays, ponds, and lakes, then dropping to snatch fish. Often rests on sandbars, piers, and other structures with other gull and tern species. Snappy, quick wingbeats and acrobatic in flight.