• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

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.

Bird Festivals
eBird, submit your observations

Appearance

Gull-like
Gull-like
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.

Range Map Help

Roseate Tern Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult breeding

    Roseate Tern

    Adult breeding
    • © Joanna Burger, Puerto Rico, June 2000
  • Breeding pair

    Roseate Tern

    Breeding pair
    • © Helen Lapham / CLO, Great Gull Island, New York, July 2000
  • Juvenile

    Roseate Tern

    Juvenile
    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Great Gull Island, New York, August 2000

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.