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Common Tern

Silhouette TernsTerns
Common TernSterna hirundo
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Laridae

Basic Description

Common Terns gracefully row through the sky showing off their long angular wings, and breeding season gray belly, black cap, and red bill. They dive towards the water picking off fish just below the surface. The Common Tern is the most widespread tern in North America, spending its winters as far south as Argentina and Chile. They are social birds, foraging in groups and nesting on the ground in colonies.

More ID Info
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Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Like other terns, Common Terns aren't shy. They boisterously fly over open waters and rest out in the open, often perching on shorelines, boats, and piers. But Common Terns aren't just a coastal bird, they can also be found inland on freshwater lakes during the summer months, though they stick to coastal saltwater areas more frequently than similar-looking Forster's Terns. Although they tend to be rather obvious, they do hide among other similar looking terns.

Other Names

  • Charrán Común (Spanish)
  • Sterne pierregarin (French)

Backyard Tips

This species may not come to bird feeders, but you can still provide nesting opportunities for this bird. A nest structure may attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Find out more about providing nest structures on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest structure of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

  • Cool Facts