Caspian Tern

Hydroprogne caspia




Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Breeding Type:

Monogamous, Colonial, Rarely solitary

Egg Color:

Pink buff with brown markings.

Number of Eggs:

1 - 5

Incubation Days:

20 - 28

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On ground.

Nest Material:

Lined with shell fragments and grass.





Caspian Tern: Largest tern, stocky with pale gray upperparts and white underparts. Cap is black and may appear weakly crested; large bill is coral-red with a black tip. Undersides of primaries are gray. Tail is white, relatively short, and slightly forked; legs are black. Sexes are similar. Winter adult has dark streaked cap and white eye rings. Juvenile resembles winter adult but has gray chevrons on white back, mainly white crown, dark gray legs, tail and primaries are dark gray; has a red-orange bill with a black tip.

Range and Habitat

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.

Breeding and Nesting

Caspian Tern: Pairs begin to form nest scrapes soon after they arrive at the breeding grounds. They breed in late May and early June. One to five brown marked pink buff eggs are laid in a shallow depression in sand, often lined with shell fragments and grass. Incubation ranges from 20 to 28 days and is carried out by both parents. The young begin to fly at 37 days after hatching.

Foraging and Feeding

Caspian Tern: These terns primarily eat fish such as mullet and menhaden. They occasionally consume crayfish and insects. They plunge dive or catch fish at the surface while flying above. They also steal food from other birds. Typically they fish along coasts, shorelines, inland lakes, rivers, lagoons, estuaries and sloughs; less commonly they forage on open sea.


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

Similar Species

Caspian Tern: Royal Tern has orange bill and deeply forked tail.


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

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