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Inca Tern - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Juninho
Pucusana, Peru, October 2005
Larosterna inca


Photo by Stanley Jones
Pucusana, Lima Department, Peru, November 2013

39–42 cm (15¼-16½ in)

  • Slate-grey overall plumage
  • Paler throat and underwing-coverts
  • White facial plumes and the trailing wing edges
  • Dark red bill and legs

Immature birds are purple-brown, and gradually develop the facial plumes.
Sexes are similar


Coastal Peru and Chile, considered a rare visitor further north. Dependent on the Humbolt Current.
Spreading to Chile as a breeding bird has happened during the last 100 years.


This is a monotypic species1.


Photo © by patricklhoir
Vina del Mar, Chile, September 2018

Rocky cliffs, concrete structures along the coast.



They plunge dive for fish (especially small anchovetta) like a "Sterna" tern, or by swooping low over the water. Additionally takes scraps left by sea lions or other predators, as well as offal from fishing activities. When feeding may assemble in large flocks.

These terns hover over sea lions and dolphins in order try to steal fish out of their mouth. Watching out for hovering Inca terns is therefore a great way to find these mammals.


They nest in a hollow or burrow or sometimes the old nest of a Humboldt Penguin, and lay 1-2 eggs which are incubated for about 4 weeks. The chicks leave the nest after 7 weeks.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Restall et al. 2006. Birds of Northern South America. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300124156
  3. BF Member observations
  4. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved November 2018)

Recommended Citation

External Links

  1. Mundo Azul Species fact sheet: Inca tern [1]

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