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Whiskered Tern - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Dick Hoogenboom
Photo taken: Lesvos, Greece
Chlidonias hybrida


24-28 cm (9½-11 in)
Adult Summer

  • Black cap
  • White cheeks and sides of neck
  • Dark grey underparts
  • Lighter greyish above
  • Red bill
Photo © by armando tomas v
Delta Llobregat, Viladecans, Barcelona, Spain, May 2005

Adult Winter

  • Black cap shrinks to leave a finely barred rear crown, with solid black patch behind the eye.
  • Black bill


  • Pale brown scaly upperparts
  • Whitish rump

Similar Species

Summer adults resemble Common Terns more than Black Terns due to their black and white heads, but the short, broad wings and tails are typical of 'marsh terns'. and their underparts are so dark that the white cheeks stand out boldly.

Juveniles have a dark mantle reminiscent of the saddle on a White-winged Black Tern; however, it is not so dark in the Whiskered Tern. In addition the rump is not as conspicuously white as on a White-winged Black Tern and the wings of a Whiskered Tern are a more uniform grey.

Photo © by Jason Bugay Reyes
Kota Kinabalu Waterfront, Sabah, Malaysia, September 2009

The bill is heavier than in other 'marsh terns'.


Europe and Asia. They migrate to sub-Saharan west Africa in the winter, although a few birds will remain in the Mediterranean. Birds which breed in eastern Europe winter in large numbers in the Nile Delta and eastern and southern Africa.

Accidental vagrant to Cape May, New Jersey (2 records) with one moving south to Delaware.



Non-breeding adult
Photo © by SeeToh
Lorong Halus, Singapore, October 2015

Chlidonias hybrida has three subspecies[1]:

  • C. h. hybrida
  • C. h. delalandii
  • C. h. javanicus

The subspecies swinhoei, indicus, sclateri and fluviatilis are no longer recognized.


Inland marshes, pools and fishponds.



The diet includes terrestrial and aquatic insects, spiders, frogs, tadpoles, small crabs, shrimps and small fish.


The nest is a heap of aquatic vegetation or dry grass, placed either on floating vegetation. They nest in colonies.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BirdLife International
  3. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  4. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  5. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6

Recommended Citation

External Links

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