- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
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
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.
- Fumarel común (Spanish)
- Guifette noire (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Black Tern and two Old World species, the White-winged Tern and Whiskered Tern, are known as “marsh terns” for their habit of breeding in freshwater marshes. All three are in the genus Chlidonias. On several occasions, stray White-winged Terns have spent the summer in North America and nested with Black Terns, in at least one case producing hybrid offspring.
- The Black Tern is very social. It breeds in loose colonies and usually forages, roosts, and migrates in flocks of a few to more than 100 birds, occasionally up to tens of thousands.
- The oldest recorded Black Tern was at least 11 years, 3 months old. It had been banded in Wisconsin and was refound in Louisiana.