Sterna caspia   Pallas,  1770 (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyrights: Pbase

Size: 47-54 cm; Length 47-56 cm.

Color: Above tail, rump, back and wings grey; white collar on hind neck; head crest and cap black (streaked white in non-breeding birds); below white; underside of primaries black. Immature mottled brown on back. Bare parts: iris dark brown; bill bright red in breeding , dull red with black tip in non-breeding birds; feet and legs black.

Voice: Loud harsh kraa-ah.

Habits: Gregarious during breeding season, otherwise found singly or in twos, feeds by hovering over water with bill pointed downward, plunges often, submerging completely.

Adult: Sexes alike. A large tern with stout coral-red bill, slightly forked tail, black legs and feet. Non-breeding (winter): Head and neck white, crown streaked with black, upperparts pearl-grey, coral-red bill with dusky tip, underparts pure white. Breeding (summer): Forehead and crown to below eyes glossy jet-black. Juvenile: Like adult in winter but upperparts barred with buff grey and brown.

Breeding season: Caspian terns arrive on the breeding grounds from late March to late May. Pairs begin to form nest scrapes soon after they arrive on the breeding grounds. They breed in late May and early June, laying from 1 to 3 buffy, splotched eggs. Eggs are laid every 2 to 3 days in a simple scrape nest and incubation begins immediately with the first egg.

Lifespan/Longevity: Adults have high survival rates and can live more than 26 years in the wild.

Synonym (s)
Hydroprogne caspia (Pallas, 1770)

Common Name (s)
• Caspian Tern (English)
• Dariai dhomdi (Gujrati)
• Sigappu mooku aala (Tamil)
• Ramadasu (Telugu)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(The species is currently threatened by the loss and deterioration of breeding habitat through accelerated vegetation succession (possibly through the introduction of exotic plant species) and may be threatened in the future by habitat loss through inundation as a result of sea-level rise. The species is vulnerable to human disturbance at nesting colonies especially during the early-courtship and incubation periods and exposure to bioaccumulated contaminants (e.g. organochlorines or methylmercury) in fish could be lowering the species's reproductive success)
Threats:  Natural threats
(Newcastle disease and avian botulism may also threaten concentrated local populations (although these diseases are unlikely to threaten the global population as a whole).)
Importance:  Commercial
(Caspian tern eggs were once collected for food.)
Importance:  Ecosystem balance
(Caspian terns are predators of small or young fish in coastal areas, they may be especially important predators in areas near breeding colonies. Caspian terns must compete for limited nesting habitats, including competing with gull species (Larus occidentalis, Larus glaucescens, and Larus argentatus). Parasites of Caspian terns include lice (Actornithophilus funebre, Degeeriella praestans, Menophon, and Philopterus melanocephalus) and cestodes (Dibothriocephalus oblongatum, Schistocephalus solidus, and Paricterotaenia species), trematodes (Diplostomum, Cotylurus, Ornithobilharzia, Clinostomum, and Stephanoprora species), and a nematode (Cosmocephalus species))

Habitat:  Estuarine, Sandy, Muddy, Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Carnivorous, comprising mainly fish, crabs, prawns.
Predator:  Predators on eggs and hatchlings include gull species (Larus), great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), common ravens (Corvus corvax), domestic cats (Felis catus), dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), coyotes (Canis latrans), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), raccoons (Procyon lotor), northern pike (Esox lucius), and western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). Adult Caspian terns may fall prey to avian predators, such as bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and terrestrial predators when roosting or on a nest (Canis latrans, Vulpes vulpes)
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Goa, Terekhol INDIA (Record: 03/04/1981)
• Goa, Chapora INDIA
• Kerala, Kol wetlands (Lat: 10.66) (Long: 76.18) INDIA
• Kerala, Kol wetlands (Lat: 10.33) (Long: 75.96) INDIA
• Kerala, Vembanad Lake (Lat: 9.28) (Long: 76.31) INDIA
• Kerala, Vembanad Lake (Lat: 9.66) (Long: 76.55) INDIA
• Kerela, Kuttanad wetlands INDIA
• Orissa, Chilika Lake INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Available at -
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Kumar, A; Sati, JP; Tak, PC and Alfred, JRB (2005) Handbook on Indian wetland birds and their conservation Zoological Survey of India, Dehra Dun 468 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Lainer, H (2004) Birds of Goa : A reference book The Goa Foundation, Goa 244 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • PBase Available at -
  • Nameer, PO (2005) Wetlands and waterfowl conservation in kerala with special reference to Ramsar sites kerala environment congress 2005 Centre for environment and development 97-112 Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp Available at -
  • Lal Mohan RS (1986) Birds and Bird Catchers Of Ramanathapuram Coast Available at -
  • Manakadan R and Pittie A (2001) Standardized English names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent BUCEROS Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetland 6(1) 26pp Available at -
  • Narayanan SP, Thomas AP and Sreekumar B (2011) Ornithofauna and its conservation in the Kuttanad wetlands, southern portion of Vembanad-Kole Ramsar site, India Journal of Threatened Taxa 3(4) 1663–1676 Available at -
  • Balchandran S, Rahmani AR and Sathiyaselvam P (2005) Habitat evaluation of Chilka lake with special reference to birds as bio-indicators Bombay Natural History Society 140pp Available at -
  • Myers, P; Espinosa, R; Parr, CS; Jones, T; Hammond, GS and Dewey, TA (2006) Animal diversity web Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-06-27

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