Aleutian Tern

Onychoprion aleuticus

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

ALTE

Code 6

ONYALE

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

PHOTOS 1200

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Aleutian Tern has a fairly small breeding range of 233,000 square kilometers. This includes coastal areas and islands around the Bering Sea in Alaska and eastern Russia. Although the main wintering areas are unknown, some have been seen in Malaysian waters. The global estimated population of this species is 30,000-35,000 individuals, and it has a conservation rating of Least Concern.

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SUMMARY

Overview

Aleutian Tern: A medium tern, with white forehead, black cap, eyeline, bill, and legs. Upperparts and underparts are gray with white rump and tail. Undertail coverts, cheeks, and area below cap are white. Juvenile is buff and brown on top and flanks, with pale gray underparts. Wing projects beyond tip of tail at rest. Strong direct flight with deep wing beats, often high above water.


Range and Habitat North America

Aleutian Tern: This bird breeds in coastal areas of southern and western Alaska, along coast of Chukchi Sea, on Seward Peninsula, along Alaska Peninsula, in widely scattered locations in Aleutian Islands, in Kodiak Archipelago, on Kenai Peninsula and Copper River delta, and along Gulf of Alaska. Breeding colonies found on vegetated islands, dwarf-shrub tundra, grass and sedge meadows.


Range and Habitat Hawaii


Range and Habitat Palau

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INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Aleutian tern was first discovered on Kodiak Island and was named with the expectation that it would be found breeding in the Aleutians. It wasn't until years later that this theory was proven correct.
  • They usually nests among Arctic Terns, who are known to be defensive of their nests. The Aleutians are able to take advantage of this behavior, and make no attempt to defend their own nests.
  • They were once thought to be rare, but studies have documented more birds in recent years. Latest population estimates put their numbers at about 10,000.
  • 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.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION



SONGS AND CALLS

Xeno-Canto Sound

Aleutian Tern A1

  • Title: Aleutian Tern A1
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Calls from a small flock.
  • Location: AK
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Aleutian Tern A2

  • Title: Aleutian Tern A2
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Typical call is a shrill, whistled "twe-e-e-e".
  • Location: AK
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Voice Text

"twee-ee-ee, chif-chu-ak", "chip"

Vocalization

Aleutian Tern: Call is a carrying staccato "chif-chif-chu-ak", which is more shorebird-like than ternlike. Also gives a short, sharp "chit." Calls from the air and on the ground at colonies. Generally silent while incubating.

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Michael Oberhofer

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UnderpartsX

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

Undertail covertsX
Small feathers that cover the areas where the retrices (tail feathers) attach to the rump.
UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
CapX
The area on top of the head of the bird.
RumpX
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
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