Sterna hirundo   Linnaeus,  1758 (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyrights: Pbase

Size: 31-36 cm; Length 31-38 cm.

Color: Tail, rump, back and wings pale grey; collar on hindneck and below white; black cap on head; forehead white in non-breeding bird; tail does not extend beyond wings; outer web of outer primary and tips of primaries diffuse black. Immature like adult but with some brown remaining from juvenile plumage; dusky along trailing edge of secondaries. Bare parts: iris dark brown; bill black (red in breeding plumage) black with reddish base in immature; feet and legs dull red or red-brown (scarlet in breeding birds).

Voice: Ringing short kik.

Habits: Generally solitary, sometimes in colonies, hunts fishes by plunging from a height.

adult: Sexes alike, a pale grey bird with black-tipped reddish bill, forked tail, red legs. Non-breeding (winter): Forehead white, head streaked, and nape dark. Breeding (summer): Forehead, crown below to eyes and nape black. Juvenile : Forehead buff, head streaked black, nape black, upperparts buff barred dark brown, underparts white.

Breeding season: It breeds between April and June in solitary pairs or colonially in groups of up to several thousand pairs (inland colonies often smaller and more widely-dispersed than coastal ones). Nest- The nest is a shallow depression on open substrates with little or no vegetation placed near a vertical object (e.g. rock, shell, plant or artefact) to provide shelter for chicks and to facilitate nest identification.

Breeding habitats- The species breeds in a wide variety of habitats in coastal and inland areas from sea-level to heights of greater than 4,000 m. Along the coast it shows a preference for nesting on flat rock surfaces on inshore islands, open shingle and sandy beaches, dunes and spits, vegetated inter-dune areas, sandy, rocky, shell-strewn or well-vegetated islands in estuaries and coastal lagoons, saltmarshes, mainland peninsulas and grassy plateaus atop coastal cliffs. Inland it may nest in similar habitats including sand or shingle lakes shores, shingle banks in rivers, sandy, rocky, shell-strewn or well-vegetated islands in lakes and rivers, sand- or gravel-pits, marshes, ponds, grassy areas and patches of dredged soil.

Synonym (s)

Common Name (s)
• Common Tern (English)
• Pardeshi dhomdi (Gujrati)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Natural threats
(It suffers predation at nesting colonies from rats (especially on islands) and from expanding populations of large gull species such as Herring Gulls Larus argentatus (gulls may also prevent the species from nesting in the area by colonising it first). The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus.
Flooding of nest sites as a result of naturally fluctuating water levels)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(During the breeding season the species is vulnerable to human disturbance at nesting colonies (e.g. from off-road vehicles, recreation, motor-boats, personal watercraft and dogs). On its breeding grounds the species is also threatened by habitat loss as a result of coastal developement, erosion, vegetation overgrowth (rapid vegetation succession encroaching upon nesting habitats), and chemical pollution (which may also result in eggshell thinning).)
Importance:  Commercial
(The species is harvested semi-commercially on its wintering grounds)

Habitat:  Estuarine, Rocky, Sandy, Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Carnivorous, comprising chiefly fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic insects.
Predator:  Rats, large gull species Herring Gulls Larus argentatus
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Goa, Chapora Estuary INDIA (Record: 12/08/1996)
• Tamil Nadu, Chennai INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh INDIA
• Kerala, Kol wetlands (Lat: 10.33) (Long: 75.96) INDIA
• Kerala, Kol wetlands (Lat: 10.66) (Long: 76.18) INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Point Calimere (Lat: 10.3) (Long: 79.85) INDIA
• Kerela, Kuttanad wetlands INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • 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 -
  • Marine Biological Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2003) Checklist of marine fauna of Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Available at -
  • Dr. Ramesh, R; Dr. Nammalwar, P and Dr. Gowri, VS (2008) Database on coastal information of Tamil Nadu Report Submitted to Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre, Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Available at -
  • (1997) Coastal marine environment of Gujarat 178pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • 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 -
  • 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 -
  • Kumar A, sati JP and Tak CK (2003) Checklist of Indian Waterbids Buceros Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetlands 8(1) 30pp Available at -
  • Lal Mohan RS (1986) Birds and Bird Catchers Of Ramanathapuram Coast Available at -
  • Avibase- the world database Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-06-27

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