Common Tern

Sterna hirundo

Summary 6

The Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a circumpolar distribution, its four subspecies breeding in temperate and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. It is strongly migratory, wintering in coastal tropical and subtropical regions. Breeding adults have light grey upperparts, white to very light grey underparts, a black cap, orange-red legs, and a narrow pointed bill. Depending on the subspecies, the bill may be mostly...

Sterna hirundo 7

A medium-sized (13-16 inches) tern, the Common Tern in summer is most easily identified by its solid black cap, deeply-forked tail, black-tipped orange bill, and dark wing tips. In winter, this species becomes duller on the head and face, becoming dark-billed and pale headed while retaining conspicuous black eye-patches connected to a black hood. This species may be distinguished from the similarly-sized Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri) by that species’ pale wing tips and (in winter) white hood. Male and female Common Terns are similar to one another in all seasons. The Common Tern occurs across much of the world. In North America, this species breeds in a number of inland and coastal sites in the northeastern U.S.and southern Canada, wintering from the Gulf coast south to southern South America. In the Old World, this species breeds in the mid-latitudes throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa, wintering in coastal Africa, South Asia, and Australasia. Common Terns primarily breed on rocky or sandy islands and beaches. In winter, this species may be found on beaches or, while feeding, in near-shore waters. Common Terns mainly eat small fish, but may eat small invertebrates, including insects and crustaceans, as they become available. Common Terns may be most easily seen standing or walking along the shore or on the beach, where their dark wing tips and (in summer) black-tipped orange bill may be most apparent. With the aid of binoculars, it may also be possible to observe this species feeding by diving headfirst into the water. Common Terns are most active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Tom McC., some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  2. (c) Andreas Trepte, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  3. Lamba. Original uploader was Lamba at it.wikipedia, no known copyright restrictions (public domain),
  4. Lamba. Original uploader was Lamba at it.wikipedia, no known copyright restrictions (public domain),
  5. (c) Andreas Trepte, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  6. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  7. (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

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