|Conservation status||Widespread and fairly common in tropical seas.|
|Family||Gulls and Terns|
|Habitat||Warm oceans. Spends most of year at sea, over warm waters, generally in offshore waters rather than far out in mid-ocean. In Florida waters often forages along weed lines on landward side of Gulf Stream, so may be found closer to shore than Sooty Tern. Nests on islands with areas of rock rubble, limestone caves, bushes, or other shelter.|
Forages mostly by flying low, hovering, and dipping down to take items from surface of water; seldom plunge-dives into water. May concentrate where schools of predatory fish are chasing smaller fish to surface. May sometimes feed at night.
One. Pale buff, spotted with dark brown or reddish-brown. Incubation is by both parents, 28-30 days. Young: May leave nest after a few days and hide in nearby cover. Both parents feed young, regurgitating small fish. Age at first flight about 55-63 days; may become independent about a month later.
May leave nest after a few days and hide in nearby cover. Both parents feed young, regurgitating small fish. Age at first flight about 55-63 days; may become independent about a month later.
Mostly fish. Feeds mainly on small fish, also small squid, crustaceans, insects.
Breeds in isolated pairs or in colonies, often with other terns. Florida nesters were associated with Roseate Terns. Courtship involves high flight by groups or pairs. Male may fly slowly and low over colony, carrying stick or fish, to be pursued by other birds. On ground, two birds bow, strut, turn in circles. Nest site is usually in sheltered spot, such as under ledge, among rock rubble, in small limestone cave, under shrub; sometimes on open ground. Nest is slight scrape in soil, with little or no lining added.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Movements of most populations at sea not well known. Present off southeastern states mainly in warmer months, with few records for mid-winter.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent; various high-pitched barking notes on breeding grounds.
Learn more about this sound collection.