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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Black Tern


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small dark, graceful tern of freshwater marshes, the Black Tern eats insects as well as fish.

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Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Small, dark tern.
  • In breeding plumage dark head and chest and gray wings are distinctive.
  • In nonbreeding plumage, head and underside white, wings gray, and dark spot behind eye and dusky crown and nape.

Immature Description

Similar to nonbreeding adult, but with pale scaling on back.

Range Map Help

Black Tern Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult breeding

    Black Tern

    Adult breeding
    • © Marie Read
  • Adult nonbreeding

    Black Tern

    Adult nonbreeding
    • © Kevin T. Karlson
  • First year

    Black Tern

    First year
    • © Marie Read

Similar Species

  • In breeding plumage, nothing else quite looks like it. In nonbreeding plumage other terns do not have gray wings and gray rump, or dark smudges on the sides of the breast.