White-winged Tern

Chlidonias leucopterus




Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Brown to dark brown with black brown blotches

Number of Eggs:


Incubation Days:

17 - 22

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

Floating and anchored to vegetation.

Nest Material:

Lined with grasses.





White-winged Tern: Small tern with black head, body, and underwing coverts and white rump, vent, upperwing coverts, and tail; flight feathers are pale gray. Bill is dark red to black; legs and feet are red. Sexes are similar. Winter adult has pale gray upperparts, white head with dark-streaked hind crown, gray upperwings, white and gray underwings, white underparts, dark bill, and red legs. Juvenile resembles winter adult but has distinct brown and gray barred back.

Range and Habitat

White-winged Tern: Eurasian species; casual vagrant in North American from eastern Canada and along the U.S. east coast; accidental inland, in Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, and on the western Aleutian Islands. Spends winters in Africa. Preferred habitats include inland wetlands, coastal wetlands, and estuaries.

Breeding and Nesting

White-winged Tern: Three brown to dark brown eggs with black brown blotches are laid on a mat of floating marsh vegetation or dead grass. Incubation ranges from 17 to 22 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

White-winged Tern: Feeds on insects, small fish, invertebrates, crabs, and shrimp. Often forages while flying into the wind, then drifts downwind to repeat the maneuver; also plunge dives, surface snatches, and skims.


White-winged Tern: Emits a hoarse "kersch" or "kreek" call.

Similar Species

White-winged Tern: Other short-tailed terns lack black bodies and white wings.


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

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Flight feathersX
Located on the wing, and collectively called remiges (singular, remex). The long stiff feathers are subdivided into two major groups based on the location and are called primaries and secondaries.
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
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.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X