Bird GuideGulls and TernsWhite-winged Tern
White-winged Tern
Chlidonias leucopterus

At a Glance

This Eurasian species, rare in our area, is similar to Black Tern and usually associates with it. Most often seen with flocks of migrant Black Terns on the Atlantic Coast in late summer. It has also strayed from Asia to Alaska. There are a couple of instances of adults summering around marshes in the interior, and an adult once paired with a Black Tern in Quebec and nested there.
Gull-like Birds, Gulls and Terns
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic

Range & Identification


8-9 1/2" (20-24 cm). W. 25-27 (63-67 cm). Summer adult is like Black Tern but whiter on upperside of wings and has contrasting whitish tail; underside of wing shows black wing linings (pale gray on Black Tern). Immatures and fall adults very much like Black Tern.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, White
Wing Shape
Broad, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Notched, Short, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Call a loud, harsh kwek or creek; also kvrr-kak.
Call Pattern
Flat, Undulating