Common Tern


Common Tern

Latin Name

Sterna hirundo




35 cm


Common Tern occurs in thousands offshore.


A migrant; ringed birds have been recovered along our shores from England, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Germany.

Bird Call

The sound they utter is a sharp screeching 'pee-err'.


Common Tern roost in estuaries and on beaches.

Immature Description

Young Common Tern birds resemble the non-breeding adult but upper parts are mottled grey and buff, bill reddish at base and legs yellowish.

Adult Description

The bill is 1½ times the distance between back of eye and front of forehead, the bill is red with black tip but shows more black in non-breeding conditions. Common Tern eyes are dark brown. The crown is usually a mottled black with sooty black over eye and on the back of the head; forehead, nape, throat and underparts white. Very pale grey above with a black bar on the shoulder of the wing. Legs dark reddish. When in breeding plumage, the nape, crown and forehead are black.


Abundant summer visitor.


Common Tern present along the coast from August to April in great numbers but individuals may be found throughout the year. Very rare inland.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari