Black Tern

Chlidonias niger

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

BLTE

Code 6

CHLNIG

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

ask community
Copyright © 2004 - 2017 Mitch Waite Group

PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Black Tern is a small tern averaging 25 centimeters in length in adulthood. It has a large breeding range of 1,430,000 square kilometers that includes a large area of Canada, California and the northern United States, various sites in Europe, the Caucus region, western Russia, and Kazakhstan. This species breeds on freshwater marshes and lakes, and winters in coastal waters from Mexico south to Peru and the Guyanas, the western coast of Africa, and along the Nile River. The Black Tern feeds mostly on fish and flying insects. This species is threatened by pollution, and changes in water quality on its breeding grounds. It has declined for several decades but still has a population that is large and stable enough to warrant a conservation rating of Least Concern.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Black Tern: This small tern has a black head, bill and underparts. The back, wings and tail are silver-gray, and the vent is white. The legs and feet are dark red but may appear black. It has a buoyant, direct flight with deep rapid wing beats. It hovers for insects in an uneven foraging flight. It plunge dives on occasion. The sexes appear similar.

 

Range and Habitat

Black Tern: Found from central eastern Alaska, central Manitoba and Ontario south to northern California, Colorado, northern Missouri and Tennessee, also to the lakeshores of northern Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Winters spent from Surinam to Peru and Chile. Preferred habitats include lakes, ponds, marshes, and coastal areas.

whatbird search for your browser

Black Tern SONGS AND CALLS

Black Tern A1

"Kip" and "Kyew" calls from a large flock on a mudflat.

Black Tern A2

Shrill warning calls from a pair in flight near their nest.

Similar Sounding


Voice Text

"Ka-sheek", "kik-kik-kik"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Black Tern is very social. It breeds in loose colonies and usually forages, roosts, and migrates in flocks of a few to more than 100 birds, occasionally up to tens of thousands.
  • The male performs a display flight where he carries a small fish or dragonfly in view of potential mates. A female that accepts the invitation follows him to a perch where he feeds her the prize.
  • They are semi-colonial nesters and only defend a small territory a few feet around the nest. Nests may be as close as 1 yard apart, but more typically they are 15 to 60 feet apart, in clusters of 10 to 50 nests.
  • A group of terns are collectively known as a "ternery" or a "U" of terns.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

RANGE MAP HAWAII

About this Hawaii Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across the Hawaiian island.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

.
UnderpartsX

Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

VentX
Birds do not have two separate cavities for excrement and reproduction like humans do. In birds, there is one single entrance/exit that suits both functions called the vent, cloaca or anus.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X