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Caspian Tern

Hydroprogne caspia ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

As large as a big gull, the Caspian Tern is the largest tern in the world. Its large coral red bill makes it one of the most easily identified terns throughout its worldwide range.

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Appearance

Gull-like
Gull-like
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Large, gull-like tern.
  • Black cap.
  • Body white.
  • Bill large, thick, and brilliant red with dark tip.

Immature Description

Juvenile has blackish crown, black edging to back feathers.

Range Map Help

Caspian Tern Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding adult

    Caspian Tern

    Breeding adult
    • Large, heavy-bodied tern
    • Gull-like
    • Crisp, jet-black cap
    • Stout, dark-red bill
    • © Christopher L. Wood, New York
  • Adult

    Caspian Tern

    Adult
    • Large and broad-winged
    • Solid black crown
    • Heavy, dark-red bill
    • © Ned Harris, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach, California, September 2011
  • Adult

    Caspian Tern

    Adult
    • Large, heavy-bodied gull
    • Extensive black crown
    • Stout, dagger-like, dark red/orange bill
    • © Andy Johnson, Myers Point, Tompkins County, New York, August 2009
  • Breeding adult

    Caspian Tern

    Breeding adult
    • Bold dark cap contrasts with mostly white body
    • Heavy, dark-red bill
    • Broad wings
    • © Kim Taylor, Belle Haven , Virginia, April 2009
  • Juvenile

    Caspian Tern

    Juvenile
    • Large and stocky tern with heavy, dark-red bill
    • Buffy scalloping on upperparts of juvenile
    • Short tail
    • © Christopher L. Wood, New York, August 2010

Similar Species

  • Breeding adult

    Royal Tern

    Breeding adult
    • More slender-bodied and elongated than Caspian Tern
    • Shaggy crest
    • Thinner, paler yellow-orange bill
    • © reddirtpics, Bolivar Flats, Texas, April 2012
  • Nonbreeding adult

    Royal Tern

    Nonbreeding adult
    • More slender and longer-winged than Caspian Tern
    • Pale forehead and crown in winter
    • Thinner, paler orange-yellow bill
    • © Robert Steffens, Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, August 2010

Similar Species

  • Larger and more robust than other terns. Pointed red bill and black cap distinguishes it from gulls.
  • Royal Tern thinner with thinner wings, has thinner more pointed orange or orange-red bill, more deeply notched tail, and outside of the breeding season, an extensive white forehead.