Caspian Tern

Hydroprogne caspia

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

CATE

Code 6

HYDCAS

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Caspian Tern has a range of about 10 million square kilometers. The population of the Caspian Tern is estimated to be about 300,000 individual birds. This bird is native to dozens of countries throughout the world, primarily in Asia. It is also a visitor to areas of Europe and the Caribbean. The Caspian Tern is considered to be regionally extinct in Denmark. Currently, the Caspian Tern has a rating of Least Concern, downgraded from a prior Lower Risk rating.

VOTE: ILLUSTRATION

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SUMMARY

Overview

Caspian Tern: This large stocky tern has pale gray upperparts and white underparts. The cap is black and may appear weakly crested. The large bill is coral-red, the undersides of the primaries are gray, a short white tail is slightly forked, and the legs are black. The flight is strong, swift and graceful. It hovers above water before diving and mainly feeds on fish. The sexes are similar.


Range and Habitat North America

Caspian Tern: Breeds in scattered colonies from central Canada, Great Lakes, and Newfoundland south to the Gulf coast and Baja California. Spends winters north to California and North Carolina. Also breeds in Eurasia, Africa, and Australia. Preferred habitats include sandy or pebbly shores of lakes and large rivers and along coasts.


Range and Habitat Hawaii

Caspian Tern: Breeds in scattered colonies from central Canada, the Great Lakes, and Newfoundland south to the Gulf coast and Baja California. Spends winters north to California and North Carolina. Also breeds in Eurasia, Africa, and Australia. Vagrant to the Hawaiian Islands. Preferred habitats include sandy or pebbly shores of lakes and large rivers and along coasts.


Range and Habitat Palau

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INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Caspian Tern aggressively defends its breeding colony. It will pursue, attack, and chase potential predatory birds, and can cause bloody wounds on the heads of people who invade the colony. The entire colony will take flight, however, when a Bald Eagle flies overhead, exposing the chicks to predation from gulls.
  • The largest breeding colony in North America is off the coast of Oregon. Increasing numbers of terns at this site have caused problems with young salmon releases, some of them endangered species. Efforts are being made to move the colony to other areas, away from the fish stocking programs.
  • Young Caspian Terns appear to have a difficult time learning to catch fish efficiently. They stay with their parents for long periods of time, and are fed by them even on the wintering grounds. Many young terns do not return to the nesting grounds for several years, remaining instead on the wintering areas.
  • A group of terns are collectively known as a "ternery" or a "U" of terns.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

RANGE MAP HAWAII

About this Hawaii Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across the Hawaiian island.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION



SONGS AND CALLS

Xeno-Canto Sound

Caspian Tern W1

  • Title: Caspian Tern W1
  • Recordist: Thijs Fijen
  • Description: High-pitched begging calls from a juvenile.
  • Location: om

Caspian Tern C1

  • Title: Caspian Tern C1
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: Harsh adult calls and high-pitched juvenile calls.
  • Location: FL

Caspian Tern A1

  • Title: Caspian Tern A1
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Calls from a small flock.
  • Location: CA

Caspian Tern A2

  • Title: Caspian Tern A2
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Calls from a pair.
  • Location: CA

Caspian Tern A3

  • Title: Caspian Tern A3
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Calls from a single bird in flight.
  • Location: CA

Caspian Tern A3

  • Title: Caspian Tern A3
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Grating long calls.
  • Location: CA

Voice Text

"Kaark" and "ka-arr"

Vocalization

Caspian Tern: Call is harsh deep "kaark" or "ka-arr."

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Artist

Yury Lisyak

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UnderpartsX

Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
CapX
The area on top of the head of the bird.
PrimariesX
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X