Small buoyant tern. Breeding adult has distinctive dark smoky gray body and contrasting white cheeks (can look like broad white "whiskers" in flight) underneath a black cap. Nonbreeding plumage pale silvery gray overall with a faded shadow of the cap; juvenile has dark-checkered back. Note rather stout bill (albeit thinner than Gull-billed Tern) and square tail; compare to Common, Roseate, and Arctic Terns. Feeds by picking from surface, not splash-diving like typical terns. Common around wetlands, lakes, and rivers.