Roseate Tern Life History


Habitat ShorelinesBreeds on rocky offshore islands, barrier beaches, and salt marsh islands. Winters offshore or along coasts.Back to top


Food FishSmall fish. Some invertebrates.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Scrape in ground.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:1-5 eggs
Egg Description:Brown with dark speckles and streaks.
Condition at Hatching:Downy, eyes open, able to walk but stays in nest.
Back to top


Behavior Aerial Dive (water)Plunges into water from flight; may hover briefly before plunging.Back to top


Conservation DecliningThere is little information on population trends of Roseate Tern, but they appear to be a declining species. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental breeding population of 16,000 birds, rates the species a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of High Concern. North American populations are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists Roseate Tern populations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Virginia as Endangered. Populations in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin islands are listed as Threatened. Roseate Tern is listed as Threatened by the Canadian Wildlife Service,Back to top


Crossley, R. (2011). The Crossley ID guide: Eastern birds. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl (2002). Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, DC, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

Nisbet, Ian C. T., Michael Gochfeld and Joanna Burger. (2014). Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

Back to top