Gull-billed Tern (species: Gelochelidon nilotica) in Birds of Argentina (Gaia Guide)
Gelochelidon nilotica
Gull-billed Tern

©Tom Tarrant: Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)

©barloventomagico on Flickr: Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Laridae
Genus Gelochelidon
Species Gelochelidon nilotica
Status least concern



Distinguishing features

This is a fairly large and powerful tern. Its short thick gull-like bill, broad wings, long legs and robust body are distinctive. The summer adult has grey upperparts, white underparts, a black cap, strong black bill and black legs.

In winter, the cap is lost, and there is a dark patch through the eye. Juveniles have a fainter mask, but otherwise look much like winter adults. (Wikipedia)


  • From 33 cm to 42 cm (Length of specimen)


  • From 76 cm to 91 cm



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

It breeds in warmer parts of the world in southern Europe (and a very small isolated population in northern Germany and Denmark), temperate and eastern Asia, both coasts of North America, eastern South America and Australia. This bird has a number of geographical races, differing mainly in size and minor plumage details.

All forms show a post-breeding dispersal, but the northern breeders are most migratory, wintering south to Africa, the Caribbean and northern South America, southern Asia and New Zealand. (Wikipedia)


It does not normally plunge dive for fish like the other white terns, and has a broader diet than most other terns. It largely feeds on insects taken in flight, and also often hunts over wet fields and even in brushy areas, to take amphibians and small mammals, as well as small birds and the chicks and eggs of other terns. (Wikipedia)

Web resources


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