White-winged Black Tern (species: Chlidonias (Chlidonias) leucopterus) in Monterey Bay, California (Gaia Guide)
Chlidonias (Chlidonias) leucopterus
White-winged Black Tern

©Tom Ziegen: White-winged Black Terns (Chlidonias (Chlidonias) leucopterus)

©Charles Lam: White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias (Chlidonias) leucopterus)
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Laridae
Genus Chlidonias
Species Chlidonias (Chlidonias) leucopterus
Status least concern



Distinguishing features

Adult birds in summer have short red legs and a short black bill, a black neck (often with a pale gray back) and belly, very dark grey back, with a white rump and light grey (almost white) tail, which often looks 'square' in juveniles. The face is tinged yellowish. The wings, as the name implies, are mainly white. The inner wing is grayish with brown-tipped coverts. In non-breeding plumage, most of the black is replaced by white or pale grey, though a few blackish feathers may be retained, admixed with white underparts. A good deal of black shows in the underwing-coverts. The head is black, with a white forehead. The crown is blackish-brown, flecked with white, and the hindcrown is blackish with a certain amount of white flecking. These white markings are pronounced in the winter adult. There is a dark triangular patch forward of the eye. The collar is fairly broad and white. In juveniles and moulting adults, the rump is pale gray, becoming grey in both phases late in the year. (Wikipedia)


  • From 22 cm to 24 cm (Length of specimen)


  • From 58 cm to 67 cm



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

It is found in or near bodies of fresh water across from Southeastern Europe east to Australia. Their breeding habitat is freshwater marshes across from southeast Europe to central Asia. In winter, they migrate to Africa, southern Asia and Australia. It is a scarce vagrant in North America, mainly on the Atlantic coast, but a few records on the Pacific coast and inland in the Great Lakes area. (Wikipedia)


Unlike other terns, they do not dive for fish, but fly slowly over the water to surface-pick items on the surface and catch insects in flight. They mainly eat insects and small fish.

Web resources


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