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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.

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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.

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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

    Juvenile

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.