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Antarctic Tern - BirdForum Opus

Breeding adult, subspecies tristanensis.
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha, SH. 13 March 2018.
Sterna vittata


31-38 cm.

  • Pale grey and white
  • Black cap when breeding otherwise streaked with white
  • Greyish black wing tips
  • Dark red or blackish bill.

Juveniles:belly, foreneck, forehead, and breast are white. Grey back, black bill, orange-red legs and feet.


Adult, subspecies georgiae
Photo © by Dave Clark
Godthul on South Georgia Island, January 2012

Southern Oceans.



There are 6 subspecies[1]:

  • S. v. tristanensis:
  • Breeds Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island (south Atlantic)
  • S. v. sanctipauli:
  • Breeds Amsterdam and St. Paul Islands (southern Indian Ocean)
  • S. v. georgiae:
  • Breeds South Georgia Island, South Orkney Islands, South Sandwich Islands, and Bouvet Island
  • S. v. gaini:
  • Breeds South Shetland Islands, also on the Antarctic Peninsula (south to Marguerite Bay)
  • S. v. vittata:
  • Breeds Prince Edward Island, Marion Island, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen islands, and Heard Island (southern Indian Ocean)
Juvenile, subspecies tristanensis.
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha, SH. 13 March 2018.
  • S. v. bethunei:
  • Breeds Stewart Island, Snares Islands, Auckland Islands, Campbell Island, Macquarie Island, Bounty Islands, and Antipodes Islands

S. v. macquariensis is no longer recognized.


Coasts and sea.



The diet includes fish.


Up to 3 eggs are laid in a shallow pebble-or shell-lined scrape on the ground, between October and January.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gochfeld, M., Burger, J. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/54027 on 13 June 2018).
  3. Higgins, P.J.; Davies, S.J.J.F. (Eds.) 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 3. Snipe to Pigeons. Oxford University Press: Melbourne
  4. Jaramillo, A. 2003. Birds of Chile. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691117409
  5. Sagar, P.M. 2013. Antarctic tern. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
  6. Shirihai, H. 2008. Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife: Birds and Marine Mammals of the Antarctic Continent and the Southern Ocean. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691136660
  7. Avibase

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.