Common Tern

About the Common Tern

Also known as: Sea Swallow

The Common Tern breeds in temperate and sub-arctic regions of Europe, Asia and east and central North America. It is strongly migratory, wintering in the subtropical and tropical oceans.

In winter, the forehead and underparts of the Common Tern are white. They breed in colonies on coasts and islands and often inland on suitable freshwater lakes. Like all Sterna terns, the Common Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, from either the sea or freshwater lakes and large rivers.

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Details & Statistics

Added to Birdorable
Hatched on 20 July 2007
Scientific Name
Sterna hirundo
  • Charadriiformes
  • Sternidae
  • Sterna
  • S. hirundo
Birdorable Family
Conservation Status
Least Concern (as of 6 April 2020)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW)
  • Extinct (EX)
Source: IUCN Red List
Units: Imperial / Metric
13 to 14 inches
27 to 31 inches


International Names

Brazilian (Português brasileiro) Trinta-réis-boreal
Chinese (汉语) 普通燕鸥
Czech (Cesky) Rybák Obecný
Danish (Dansk) Fjordterne
Dutch (Nederlands) Visdief
Finnish (Suomi) Kalatiira
French (Français) Estorlet
German (Deutsch) Fluss-Seeschwalbe
Italian (Italiano) Sterna Comune
Japanese (日本語) アジサシ (Ajisashi)
Korean (한국어) 제비갈매기 (Jebigalmaegi)
Norwegian (Norsk) Makrellterne
Polish (Polski) Rybitwa Rzeczna
Russian (русский язык) Крачка речная
Spanish (Español) Charrán común
Swedish (Svenska) Fisktärna
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The Adorable Common Tern

The Adorable Common Tern

Doesn't this Common Tern have the cutest tiny feet? We took this picture at Starrevaart, a bird sanctuary near The Hague in the Netherlands. Every spring during breeding time there was a ... more