Sterna nilotica   (Gmelin,  1789) (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

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Size: 35-38 cm; Length 35-41 cm.

Color: Back, rump and wing pale grey, rest of upperparts white, with black speckling on nape and heavy black line through eye in non-breeding adult, black cap in breeding adult. Immature whiter than non-breeding adult with some brown on wings; black on head reduced to a facial patch. Bare parts: iris dark brown; thick gull-like bill black; feet and legs black.

Voice: Generally silent, low gek-gek-gek.

Habits: Gregarious, but generally seen in ones or twos in association with other terns near wetlands, flying low over sand-mudflats, swooping down frequently for foraging. Breeds from end of April to end of June, nests on sand-banks in rivers and on islands in lakes or jheels in West Bengal, Chilika lake.

Adult: Sexes alike. Pale grey and white tern, with stout black 'gull-like' bill, slightly forked white tail and black legs. Non-breeding (winter): Head white, streaked with black in front and behind the eyes. Distinguished from Whiskered Tern by larger size, stouter bill and slower wing beats. Breeding (summer): Head turns jet-black covering forehead, crown down to eyes and nape. Juvenile: Crown grey or greyish-white, upperparts pale brown with buff edges and grey-brown primaries.

Breeding season: It breeds colonially in monospecific groups of 5-500 pairs (occasionally up to 1,000 pairs) or as solitary pairs amidst colonies of other species remaining gregarious outside of the breeding season. Nest- The nest is a scrape in dried mud, sand or gravel on beaches, dry mudflats, dykes, sea-wrack on the tideline or on floating vegetation.

Synonym (s)
Sterna nilotica Gmelin, 1789
Gelochelidon nilotica (J. F. Gmelin, 1789)

Common Name (s)
• Gull-billed Tern (English)
• Kadalkakka (Malayalam)
• Karuppu mooku aala (Tamil)
• Ramadasu (Telugu)
• Dhomda-dhomdi, (Gujrati)
• Suray, Hivali surya (Marathi)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(The species is threatened by the deterioration and loss of habitat, e.g. through wetland drainage, agricultural intensification, pesticide pollution, beach erosion and the development or modification of foraging sites. It also suffers from reduced reproductive successes as a result of human disturbance at breeding colonies.)
Threats:  Natural threats
(Loss of habitat due to fluctuating water levels.)

Habitat:  Estuarine, Sandy, Muddy, Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Carnivorous, chiefly sand crabs, prawns, crustaceans, fish, small frogs and insects.
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Orissa, Chilika Lake INDIA
• Goa, Chapora Estuary INDIA (Record: 26/11/2000)
• Goa, Santa Cruz INDIA (Record: 24/11/2000)
• Goa, Divar INDIA (Record: 17/09/1999)
• Goa, Agassaim INDIA (Record: 19/01/2001)
• Tamil Nadu, Chennai INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh 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
• Goa, Mandovi estuary INDIA
• Goa, North Goa INDIA (Record: 27/11/1972, 12/12/1972)
• Kerela, Kuttanad wetlands INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Point Calimere (Lat: 10.3) (Long: 79.85) INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Tikader, BK (1984) Birds of Andaman and Nicobar Island ZSI, Kolkata 1-167 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Saha, BC and Dasgupta, JM (1992) Birds of Goa Occasional paper no 143 Records of the Zoological Survey of India ZSI, Calcutta 20455 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Abbaasi, SA (1997) Wetlands of India-Ecology and Threats Discovery Publishing House,New Delhi II 1-182 Available at - NIO, RC Kochi
  • 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
  • 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
  • Borges, SD and Shanbhag, AB (2008) Food resource partitioning among waterbirds wintering on the Diwar wetland in the Mandove estuary of Goa, India Proceedings of Taal2007:The 12th World Lake conference 124-130 Available at -
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp 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 -
  • 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 -
  • Lal Mohan RS (1986) Birds and Bird Catchers Of Ramanathapuram Coast Available at -
  • Myers, P; Espinosa, R; Parr, CS; Jones, T; Hammond, GS and Dewey, TA (2006) Animal diversity web 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 -

Page last updated on:2012-06-27

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