Skip to main content

Black Tern

Silhouette TernsTerns
Black TernChlidonias niger
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Laridae

Basic Description

An outlier in a world of white seabirds, breeding Black Terns are a handsome mix of charcoal-gray and jet black. Their delicate form and neatly pointed wings provide tremendous agility as these birds flutter and swoop to pluck fish from the water’s surface or veer to catch flying insects, much as a swallow does. Black Terns nest in large freshwater marshes, in small, loose colonies. They winter in flocks along tropical coastlines. In the last half-century, this species has lost about half its North American population.

More ID Info
image of range map for Black Tern
Range map provided by Birds of the World
Explore Maps

Find This Bird

In summer, look for flocks of Black Terns foraging acrobatically over large freshwater marshes. They often form colonies in the same locations each year (depending on water levels), so using eBird to see where they’ve been found in the past can help. Black Terns are harder to find during migration, as they move quickly. They may turn up in almost any kind of wetland, but they don’t stay in one spot for long.

Other Names

  • Fumarel Común (Spanish)
  • Guifette noire (French)
  • Cool Facts