Male Common Tern

Common Tern

Scientific name: Sterna hirundo

Did you know: Common Terns, often called ‘sea-swallows’, are skilled at aerial acrobatics and can dive straight into water from flight!

What Do Common Terns Look Like? (how to identify them)

Common Terns are graceful birds, known for their pointed wingtips and long, narrow wings. 

They sport a straight, slender bill and a characteristically forked tail, with short legs. This species exhibits a distinct size that’s bigger than a Least Tern but smaller than a Caspian Tern.

Differences Between Male And Female Common Terns

Both male and female Common Terns share a similar appearance. They are pale grey overall with a black-coloured cap. 

Breeding birds display a fully black cap that extends to the back of their neck and a grey belly, complemented by an orange-coloured bill with a black tip and orange legs.

What Do Common Terns Eat?

Common Terns mainly feed on fish, which they catch by masterfully diving from the air into the water. They also consume insects, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates, showcasing their diverse diet.

Where Do Common Terns Live? (inc. migration info)

These birds are found in a variety of habitats, including rocky islands, barrier beaches, saltmarshes, and open waters. 

Common Terns are migratory, breeding across Europe, Asia, and North America, and wintering in warmer coastal tropical and subtropical regions.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Common Terns)

Common Terns are known for their vocal and social nature. They produce a variety of calls, with a lower pitch compared to other terns. Their most distinctive sound is the alarm call, which is crucial for communication within the species.

Fun Common Tern Facts (kid friendly)

  • Common Terns are expert fishermen, diving skillfully for their prey.
  • They are nicknamed ‘sea-swallows’ due to their long tails and agile flight.
  • These birds can be seen hovering elegantly over water bodies.
  • They are known to form noisy groups, especially during the breeding season.
  • Common Terns undertake long migratory journeys across continents.

Common Tern Video

Facts About The Common Tern

Diet: Fish.
Bird Family: Gulls and terns
Length: 31-35cm
Wingspan: 77-98cm
Weight: 90-150g
Scientific Name: Sterna hirundo

The Common Tern Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

Common Tern Images

Male Common Tern Male
Female Common Tern Female
image coming soon Submit Image
Hatchling
Common Tern Nestling Nestling
image coming soon Submit Image
Chick
image coming soon Submit Image
Fledgling
image coming soon Submit Image
Juvenile