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Roseate Tern


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A medium-sized tern similar in appearance to several other species, the Roseate Tern is primarily a tropical bird. It breeds across the globe in tropical oceans, and reaches into the temperate zone in the northern Atlantic, where it breeds in scattered localities.

Birds of North America Online
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Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized tern.
  • White with black cap.
  • Tail long and deeply forked.
  • Wings white.
  • Bill black.

Immature Description

Juvenile with dark head, and scaly pattern across back. Immature resembles winter adult, but has darker wingtips.

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Roseate Tern Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

  • Adult breeding (center) with Common Terns

    Roseate Tern

    Adult breeding (center) with Common Terns
    • © Brendan Fogarty, Jones Beach, New York, May 2006
  • Adult breeding

    Roseate Tern

    Adult breeding
  • Adult nonbreeding

    Roseate Tern

    Adult nonbreeding
  • Juvenile

    Roseate Tern


Similar Species

  • Common Tern similar in breeding plumage, but has shorter legs, more extensive red on bill, darker gray wings and back, black forming a wedge in the spread primaries, a light grayish belly, shorter tail with dark outer edges, and a dark leading edge to the wings.
  • Forster's Tern slightly darker, with long, but slightly shorter white tail streamers, dark trailing edge of wings, orange legs, and an orange bill with a black tip. In winter, has distinctive comma-shaped dark mark around the eyes.
  • Arctic Tern has shorter, red legs, a smaller, uniformly red bill, and darker gray underparts.