Sterna fuscata   Linnaeus,  1766 (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyrights: Pbase

Size: 33-36 cm; Length 40-47 cm.

Color: Above entirely black; large white on forehead does not extend behind eye; below entirely white. Immature sooty brown with some white edges to feathers of back; crissum and underwings pale grey to greyish white. Bare parts: iris dark brown; bill black; feet and legs black.

Voice: Distinctly loud and piercing wide-a-wake.

Habits: Usually seen in flocks, very active and clamorous both in daytime and during night on its breeding grounds. Pursues shoals of small fish and deftly scoops them. Also catches flying fishes as they leap out of the water, spends much time in the arial manoeuvres.

Adult: Sexes alike. A medium sized black and white pelagic tern with conspicuously long pointed wings and deeply forked tail. Breeding (summer): Blackish mantle and wings which concolorous with black crown and nape, white oval-shaped forehead patch, white outer tail feathers contrasting strongly with rest of the black tail. Non-breeding (winter): White spotting on crown and wing fringes to upperparts. Juvenile: With sooty-black head and breast contrasting with whitish lower belly and bold spotting on mantle, scapulars and wing-coverts.

Breeding- It breeds on flat, open, sparsely or heavily vegetated, oceanic or barrier islands of sand, coral or rock in productive tropical and subtropical offshore waters rich in plankton, fish and squid. It is absent from cold current areas and generally avoids islands with terrestrial predators. Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species is highly pelagic but generally avoids cold current areas.
Nest- The nest is a slight depression or scrape on the ground. It shows a preference for nesting on flat, bare sand, coral grit or shell amongst low vegetation on beaches above the high-water mark or on coral islands, atolls and sandbanks. Less often it may nest on rock stacks or other offshore islets, and on ledges or terraces of cliffs (although it avoids sheer cliff-faces). It nests in dense colonies within which neighbouring nests may be placed c.50 cm apart.

Synonym (s)
Onychoprion fuscata Christidis and Boles 2008
Onychoprion fuscata fuscata Christidis and Boles 2008

Common Name (s)
• Sooty Tern (English)
• wideawake (English)
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Natural threats
(Some colonies (e.g. on Ascension Island) are threatened by predation from introduced rats and domestic cats Felis catus , and the species has been displaced from nesting colonies on Bird Island by invasive ants Anoplolepis longipes. It may also be threatened by climatic change, as variations in sea-surface temperature have been shown to negatively influence the species's foraging success at breeding colonies)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Persistent large scale egg-collecting in some areas has encouraged the species to move to suboptimal nesting sites, resulting in higher mortality and reduced reproductive success. The species is vulnerable to oil pollution from oil spills and tankers transporting fuel and is threatened by reductions in the global populations of tuna (a result of over-fishing) due to it's dependence on tuna to force prey to the surface )
Importance:  Commercial
(The eggs of this species are harvested in many areas )

Habitat:  Estuarine, Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Carnivorous, chiefly fish and squid.
Predator:  Rats, Cats, ants
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Maharashtra, Vengurla Rocks INDIA
• Lakshadweep INDIA
• Goa, Chapora coast INDIA (Record: 25/09/1988)
• Tamil Nadu, Chennai INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• Kerala, Vembanad Lake (Lat: 9.28) (Long: 76.31) INDIA
• Kerala, Vembanad Lake (Lat: 9.66) (Long: 76.55) INDIA
• Lakshadweep, Agatti INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Bangaram INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Tinnakara INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Bitra INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Kadamatt INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Suheli INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Kalpeni INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Andrott INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Amini INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)
• Lakshadweep, Kilttan INDIA (Record: 01/1987-04/1987)

Literature Source(s)
  • (2001) Sanctuary Asia natural history species: Species checklist: Birds Sanctuary Asia Sanctuary Magazine Available at -
  • Tikader, BK (1984) Birds of Andaman and Nicobar Island ZSI, Kolkata 1-167 Available at - NCL, Pune
  • UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre Available at -
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Available at -
  • Chilman, PWG (1994) Seabird observations from meteorological logbooks Sea Swallow 43 Available at - Zoological Records
  • Index to Organism Names (ION) Available at -
  • Jaquemet, S; Le Corre M; Marsac, F; Potier, M and Weimerskirch, H (2005) Foraging habitats of the seabird community of Europa Island (Mozambique Channel) Marine Biology (Berlin) 147(3) 573-582 Available at - Zoological records(mozambique-marine)
  • Le Corre, M and Jaquemet, S (2005) Assessment of the seabird community of the Mozambique Channel and its potential use as an indicator of tuna abundance Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 63(3) 421-428 Available at - Zoological Records(mozambique-marine)
  • 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 -
  • 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
  • Mohan, RSL (1989) Some observations on the marine mammals and marine birds Marine living resources of the union territory of Lakshadweep: An indicative survey with suggestions for development Bulletin of Central Marine Research Institute CMFRI 43 195-199 Available at -
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp 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 -

Page last updated on:2013-02-11

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