BLACK TERN – Chlidonias niger


Black tern facts: Black terns have black heads, necks, and breasts. Their backs and bellies are dark gray in color. Juveniles and nonbreeding adults are pale gray on the back and white on the belly and head, with a dark patch on the side of the breast.

Geographic range: Black terns are found in temperate North America, Europe, and Eastern Asia during the breeding season. They spend the winter in Central and South America and in Africa.

Black tern habitat: Black terns breed in inland habitats such as ponds, lakes, and marshes. In the winter, they occupy seashore and coastal wetland habitats.

What does black tern eat: Black terns eat aquatic insects, snails, small fish, tadpoles, and frogs.

Behavior and reproduction: Black terns breed in small colonies, generally fewer than twenty individuals, although colonies of as many as a hundred birds have been seen. A single male mates with a single female, and both parents help incubate, sit on, the eggs as well as take care of young. The black tern nest is usually built on top of floating vegetation. The female lays two to three eggs at a time, and these hatch after twenty to twenty-three days. Chicks leave the nest after twenty-five days.

Black terns and people: The preferred nesting areas of black terns include the small lakes or marshes that are often drained by humans.

Conservation status: Black terns are not considered threatened. However, some populations have declined due to destruction of wetland habitats, pesticides, and competition with human-introduced fish for food.