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10

Black Tern

(Chlidonias niger)
German name(s): "Trauerseeschwalbe"
Size: 22-26 cm; wing span: 56-68 cm
Weight: 50-90 g
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Black Tern at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "niger"

ADULT

BREEDING

Pair of Black Terns in breeding plumage, possibly deciding on the suitability of this location for a nest site (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

Lateral view of a preening Black Tern in breeding plumage, showing clearly the characteristic near-white undertail coverts (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

NON-BREEDING

Two different phases of the wing beat of a Black Tern in non-breeding plumage; note the characteristic grey breast patch [at the base of the wing] and the grey rump (photos courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[River Bug, near Brok, Masovia, Poland, July 2017]

Black Tern in non-breeding plumage seen hunting in submerged pasture in the floodplain of a river
(photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[River Bug, near Brok, Masovia, Poland, July 2017]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Apr - Jul Eggs: 2 - 4 Incubation period: 21 - 22 days Fledging age: 19 - 25 days

Nest building: Male & female Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Black Terns are colonial breeders and many nests may be found in relatively close proximity to each other.

Nest

Type: Basket Material: Aquatic plants Height above ground: N/A

Nests are usually floating platforms on water, but can be built on solid ground near water too.

Black Tern on its nest, left, while its partner is hunting nearby (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

(Presumably female) Black Tern, left, with its partner in attendance (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

(Presumably male) Black Tern, right, feeding its partner on the nest (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

Eggs

Size: 35 x 25 mm Colour: Gold-ochre, with big dark-brown and black speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

During the breeding season male Black Terns, left in this case, must prove to their partners that they are good providers by making them gifts of food. Although both adults take part in the incubation, this is usually a sign of the female taking on most of the incubation duties, thereby relying on the male for food.

Male Black Tern, right, bringing its partner a small fish (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

As soon as the transfer is complete, he is off on the hunt again (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

Food, Diet

Unlike species of "white terns", Black Terns do not dive deep into water to catch their prey, but take small fish and insects in-flight from near the water's surface or from plants.

This photo demonstrates the Black Terns' hunting technique (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Biebrza National Park, Poland, June 2016]

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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