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Roseate Tern


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.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
13–16.1 in
33–41 cm
3.2–4.9 oz
90–140 g
Other Names
  • Sterne de Dougall (French)
  • Charrán Rosada, Gaviotina, Palometa (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • In Roseate Terns that breed in the Northeast, the bill is black in May, becomes progressively redder from the base toward the tip during June and July, and turns blacker again in August. In Caribbean birds, the bill is one-third to one-half red in May, and becomes mostly red during June and July.
  • Once heavily collected for the plume trade, and vulnerable to egg collectors, Roseate Tern numbers increased following the protection of colonies in North America. Breeding colonies in the Caribbean are still vulnerable to eggers, who preferentially seek the eggs of this species because of supposed aphrodisiac properties.
  • The oldest recorded Roseate Tern was at least 25 years, 8 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Brazil in 1997. It had been banded in Massachusetts in 1971.



Breeds on rocky offshore islands, barrier beaches, and salt marsh islands. Winters offshore or along coasts.



Small fish. Some invertebrates.


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.
Nest Description

Scrape in ground.

Nest Placement



Surface Dive

Plunges into water from flight; may hover briefly before plunging.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There 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,


Range Map Help

Roseate Tern Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


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