Black Tern (species: Chlidonias (Chlidonias) niger) in Monterey Bay, California (Gaia Guide)
Chlidonias (Chlidonias) niger
Black Tern

©US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region: Black Tern (Chlidonias (Chlidonias) niger) in breeding plumage

©Andrej Chudý from Slovakia: Black Tern (Chlidonias (Chlidonias) niger)

©DickDaniels: Non-breeding plumage, Nantucket, Massachusetts
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Laridae
Genus Chlidonias
Species Chlidonias (Chlidonias) niger
Status least concern



Distinguishing features

They have short dark legs and a short, weak-looking black bill, measuring 27–28 mm, nearly as long as the head. The bill is long, slender, and looks slightly decurved. They have a dark grey back, with a white forewing, black head, neck (occasionally suffused with gray in the adult) and belly, black or blackish-brown cap (which unites in color with the ear coverts, forming an almost complete hood), and a light brownish-grey, 'square' tail. The face is white. There is a big dark triangular patch in front of the eye, and a broadish white collar in juveniles. There are grayish-brown smudges on the ides of the white breast, a downwards extension of the plumage of the upperparts. These marks vary in size and are not conspicuous. In non-breeding plumage, most of the black, apart from the cap, is replaced by grey. The plumage of the upperparts is drab, with pale feather-edgings. The rump is brownish-gray. (Wikipedia)


  • Up to 25 cm (Length of specimen)


  • Up to 61 cm



Local abundance

  • Australia: vagrant

Web resources


  • Simpson, K., N. Day and P. Trusler (2004). Field Guide to Birds of Australia: 7th Edition Penguin Group (Australia), Camberwell, Victoria.