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Common Tern

(Sterna hirundo)
Size: 31-35 cm; wing span 77-98 cm
Weight: 110-140 g

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Common Tern at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information


Race "longipennis"



Near-frontal view of a Common Tern in non-breeding plumage
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

Lateral view of two Common Terns in non-breeding plumage
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

The same Common Terns as shown above, now with their heads turned away
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

One Common Tern preening, another resting and the third just looking ahead...
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

Small group of Common Terns on a rockshelf; the bird near the centre gives an almost frontal view
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

Lateral view of Common Terns in non-breeding plumage; for direct comparison there are two Crested Terns in the foreground (adult) and on the left (immature)
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Small flock of Common Terns in non-breeding plumage engaged in various activities
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

Another part of the same small flock of Common Terns, but with one interloper - who can spot the odd one out?
[Bundjalung NP, February 2012]

Common Tern in flight
[Off Wybung Head, Munmorah SCA, June 2009]

Different phase of the wingbeat
[Off Wybung Head, Munmorah SCA, June 2009]

Race "hirundo"

A Common Tern, nominate race "hirundo", was photographed by us in Oman.

Food, Diet

Like most terns, Common Terns feed on fish, which they catch with their bills just under the water surface in a steep high-speed dive from considerable height.

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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