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Bird name:

Black Tern

Chlidonias niger




Terns (Sternidae)





Euring 5

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Breeding Location:

Marshes, Lagoons

Breeding Type:


Egg Colour:

Smooth, slightly glossy and creamy to brown with irregular black to brown spots and blotches.

Number of Eggs:

2 - 4

Incubation Days:

21 - 22

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Material:

Mound of plant material with depression on top.

Nest Location:

Floating in water anchored by aquatic plants or on the ground in marsh plants.




Black Tern: A small waterbird that is black with silvery-grey wings, back, and tail, and a white vent. It has a rather short, sharp, pointed bill, and short, slightly forked tail. The long, pointed wings are used for rapid, graceful flight, as well as hovering over marshes. Adults in winter have red legs and are mostly gray and white with black restricted to the crown and face. Juveniles resemble winter plumaged adults but have light brown barring on the back.

Range and Habitat

Black Tern: Formerly a breeding resident, now a spring and autumn passage visitor to the UK and Ireland. European race summers in Europe and western Asian and winters on the west coast of Africa. This wetland tern is most often seen at lakes, reservoirs, coastal lagoons, and estuaries in England. The North American subspecies is a rare vagrant to the UK and Ireland.

Breeding and Nesting

Black Tern: Semi-colonial, with nests separated by 3 to 30 metres. Nesting sites are in freshwater wetlands. Nests are small cups of algae and larger vegetation, often damp and usually built just above the water's surface on floating matted vegetation or logs lodged in emergent vegetation.

Foraging and Feeding

Black Tern: In summer feeds mostly on insects. invertebrates, and small amphibians. Forages on the wing, and catches insects in flight. In winter eats mostly surface fish; doesn't dive. Forages in flocks of up to tens of thousands of birds.


Black Tern: Call is a high pitched, shrill, metallic sound given frequently, especially when intruders are near nest.

Similar Species

Black Tern: The Black Tern in summer has much darker plumage than any other tern species in the region. Juvenile and winter are darker above than other terns and have dark spot on shoulder in flight.

The crown is the top part of the birds head.
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
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.
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