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Bird name:

Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii




Terns (Sternidae)





Euring 5

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Breeding Location:

Beaches, coastal, Islands

Breeding Type:


Egg Colour:

Smooth and creamy or olive with brown to olive specks, spots and scrawls.

Number of Eggs:

1 - 3

Incubation Days:

21 - 26

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Material:

Scrape on sand or shingle, sometimes on rocks.

Nest Location:

On sand or shingle banks or rocky shores.




Roseate Tern: Small, pale waterbird with a black cap and pointed black bill with a red base. Back and wings pale grey and white with dark grey and black on leading edge of primaries. Underparts white with pale pink coloration on breast. Long, forked tail white. Orange legs and feet. Winter adults like summer birds but black on shoulder, black bill, and white front. Juveniles have shorter bill, shorter tail, and pink-grey legs and feet. Also more grey on the wings, fine streaks on the crown, and pale brown and black mottling on back.

Range and Habitat

Roseate Tern: Rare summer breeder in the UK & Ireland. Birds can be seen from late spring through summer. Breeding grounds are found in a few colonies on the east coasts of England and Scotland, coastal Wales, and in Ireland. Birds spend the winter at sea.

Breeding and Nesting

Roseate Tern: Monogamous. Breeding begins in mid-May. Both parents build nest, which is a scrape on sand or shingle on coastal beaches and islands. Female lays 1 to 3 eggs and incubates them for 21 to 26 days with help from male. Both parents feed young. Second clutch possible if first is lost.

Foraging and Feeding

Roseate Tern: By plunge-diving in the ocean it feeds mainly on fish. Found along the sandy seacoasts in the summer while it winters in the open ocean. Occasionally this bird will steal fish from other seabirds.


Roseate Tern: Call is soft "chi-weep"; alarm signal is high clear "keer" or drawn-out "zra-ap" (like ripping cloth). Attack is "zhrrraaaaach."

Similar Species

Roseate Tern: Common Tern has a shorter tail, cleaner head cap, slightly shorter bill and has darker grey upperparts. Sandwich Tern is light grey also, but shows shaggy black crest and is heavier built.


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

The upper front part of a bird.
The area on top of the head of the bird.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
The short feathers overlying the median secondary coverts on the top of the wing. They are located near the back and can be seen as the “first row” of feathers on the birds wing. They are also called marginal coverts and lesser secondary coverts.
4 and 6 letter alpha codesX

The four letter common name alpha code is is derived from the first two letters of the common first name and the first two letters of common last name. The six letter species name alpha code is derived from the first three letters of the scientific name (genus) and the first three letters of the scientific name (species). See (1) below for the rules used to create the codes..

Four-letter (for English common names) and six-letter (for scientific names) species alpha codes were developed by Pyle and DeSante (2003, North American Bird-Bander 28:64-79) to reflect A.O.U. taxonomy and nomenclature (A.O.U. 1998) as modified by Supplements 42 (Auk 117:847-858, 2000) and 43 (Auk 119:897-906, 2002). The list has been updated by Pyle and DeSante to reflect changes reported by the A.O.U from 2003 through 2006.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) was established in the mid-1990 s as a cooperative project among several federal agencies to improve and expand upon taxonomic data (known as the NODC Taxonomic Code) maintained by the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

To find the ITIS page for a bird species go to the ITIS web site advanced search and report page at You can enter the TSN or the common name of the bird. It will return the ITIS page for that bird. Another way to obtain the ITIS page is to use the Google search engine. Enter the string ITIS followed by the taxonomic ID, for example "ITIS 178041" will return the page for the Allen's Hummingbird.

Parts of a Standing birdX
Head Feathers and MarkingsX
Parts of a Flying birdX