By Andy Stoddart and Chris Batty
Abstract Elegant Terns Thalasseus elegans have been occurring in Europe since 1974 and have reached Britain several times since 2002. Their identification has proved problematic: the species is virtually confined to the Pacific coast of the Americas; some of the birds recorded in Europe have shown potentially atypical characters; and the spectre of hybridisation has never been far away. However, DNA analysis of three of these European birds, which proved to be genetically pure Elegant Terns, has brought new clarity to their identification. This paper sets out the history of the British and European records and documents the long process of uncovering their true identity and admission to the British List.
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