Bridled Tern

Onychoprion anaethetus




Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

White to pale buff with brown markings

Number of Eggs:


Incubation Days:

28 - 30

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

scrape, crevice, or preformed burrow; in cave, under shrub, or on bare ground.

Nest Material:

unlined; hides egg under matted plant material.





Bridled Tern: Medium-sized pelagic tern with long pointed wings and long, deeply forked tail. Black crown and nape separated from gray-brown upperparts by whitish collar. Chevron-shaped white forehead patch that extends behind eye. Whitish underparts; underwings have brown trailing edge. Black bill and legs. Sexes similar.

Range and Habitat

Bridled Tern: This species is pelagic, coming ashore only to breed. Breeding occurs from the Florida Keys to the West Indies and the Yucatan Peninsula. During migration, this bird occurs along the shoreward edge of the Gulf Stream along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida and along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to North Carolina, and rarely as far north as Connecticut.

Breeding and Nesting

Bridled Tern: Monogamous; colonial. Common Caribbean species, nests off Florida Keys (Pelican Shoals). Single white to pale buff egg marked with brown, hidden on ground under matted plant material. Incubation ranges from 28 to 30 days and is carried out by both sexes. Young fed by both sexes, fledge at 55-63 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Bridled Tern: Eats small fish, squid, crustaceans, and insects. Hovers over water, swoops down to pick food from surface. Does not plunge dive. Feeds day or night.


Bridled Tern: Around nest "kowk-kowk," "kwawk kwawk", or "kahrrr." Other vocalizations include rising nasal "weeeep" or crow-like "wep-wep-wep," or "wup-wup."

Similar Species

Bridled Tern: Sooty Tern has a larger white forehead patch, and black upperparts. Gray-backed Tern has a smaller white forehead patch, and light gray upperparts.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Similar to the upper part of the human neck, located at the back of the crown.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
The pelagic is a type of bird whose habitat is on the open ocean rather than in a coastal region or on inland bodies of water (lakes, rivers). An example of a pelagic bird is the blacklegged kittiwake.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X