Amaze-wing Facts About The Sooty Tern For Kids

Read these Sooty Tern facts to know more about this bird.

The Sooty Tern, Onychoprion fuscatus as it is scientifically known, belongs to the Laridae family. It is also known as wideawake tern, Sterna fuscata, as named by Carl Linnaeus in 1766. Onychoprion fuscatus means 'claw' or 'nail' and prion means 'saw' and fuscatus means 'dark'. The species Onychoprion fuscatus are found in subtropical and tropical regions of Asia, the Americas, and Australia. The breeding grounds of these terns are on the islands out in the ocean, barrier islands of rocks, sand, or coral which are open and flat and heavily vegetated. These species have a forked tail and long wings. The upperparts are dark black and the underparts are white and the bill and legs are also black in color. The reproduction of this Onychoprion fuscatus happens along the coasts on small islands. These species arrive at the breeding grounds two months before the eggs are laid. These Sooty Terns come early to choose their nesting colonies on coral or rock-covered islands or coast. One to three eggs are laid. The egg is white in color and the incubation is done by both the parents. The nests are shallow. The Sooty Terns are known to breed in large colonies. The juvenile is known to breed when it is around eight years old. It is considered a true seabird. The calls of these species are considered to be very loud. Sooty Terns feed on small pelagic fish and squid. These terns also sometimes feed on insects and offals. It is quite gripping to know about these terns and if you are interested, read about the Least Tern and Arctic Tern too.

Sooty Tern

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small pelagic fish and squid

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

0.4 lb (0.2 kg)

How long are they?

13-14 in (330-356 mm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black and white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Over-exploitation of their food, that is, pelagic fish

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Tropical oceans


All around the globe





Scientific Name

Onychoprion fuscatus





Sooty Tern Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a sooty tern?

Sooty Terns are birds.

What class of animal does a sooty tern belong to?

Sooty Tern belongs to the class of Aves of birds.

How many sooty terns are there in the world?

The estimated population of these birds is around 60-80 million worldwide.

Where does a sooty tern live?

These birds are found in tropical oceans and islands throughout the world.

What is a sooty tern's habitat?

These birds inhabit marshes, swamps, and shores and are found in tropical and sub-tropical oceans throughout the world. The breeding grounds of these terns are on the islands out in the ocean, barrier islands of rocks, sand, or coral which are open and flat and heavily vegetated.

Who do sooty terns live with?

During the breeding season, these birds are found in very large colonies.

How long does a sooty tern live?

These birds live for around 30 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Sooty terns breed along the coasts on small islands. These islands are rocky and heavily vegetated. They arrive on the lands two months before eggs are laid. Nests are often placed under shrubs and vegetation. A shallow type scrape may be dug or eggs may be laid on the ground. Courtship takes place or happens both in air and ground where these terns will strut and bow to each other. One to three white or light buff spotted with coarse brown egg is laid. Incubation is done by both the parents for about 28-30 days. The chick can walk soon after hatching. It is fed small fish and squid. Chicks are able to fly 8-10 weeks after hatching. Young breeds when 8-10 years old while some can also start breeding at four years of age.

What is their conservation status?

The status of the Sooty Terns is Least Concern.

Sooty Tern Fun Facts

What do sooty terns look like?

These birds are considered to be large in size. The tail is deeply forked and like the wings is long. The upperparts are dark black and the underparts are white. The bill and legs are black in color. The young or the juveniles are scaly gray above and below. It has a darker back, broad white forehead, and no pale neck collar as compared to other terns and thus is not generally confused with other terns.

The plumage and the tail of this bird are some of its identifiable features.

How cute are they?

These birds are considered cute by some people.

How do they communicate?

Not much information is available about the communication of these birds. The call of these terns is known to be loud which sounds like 'kvaark'.

How big is a sooty tern?

These birds can weigh around 0.4 lb (0.2 kg) and are around 13-14 in (330-356 mm) or 33-36 cm long.

How fast can a sooty tern fly?

Sooty Terns can fly at speed up to 25 mph (40 kph).

How much does a sooty tern weigh?

These birds can weigh around0.4 lb (0.2 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for the males and females of the species.

What would you call a baby sooty tern?

There is no particular name for a baby sooty tern but the young or offspring of birds, in general, are called chicks.

What do they eat?

This bird is known to be a shallow hunter, picking or hunting its food just from the surface of the water. The diet of these terns are carnivores (but mainly piscivores) and the diet includes fish, squid, and crustaceans, and sometimes, insects and offals.

Are they dangerous?

There is not much information available about this bird being dangerous or harmful to humans.

Would they make a good pet?

As this bird is a wild and migratory bird, it will not make a great pet. Providing their habitat and appropriate environment is difficult.

Did you know...

The Sooty Tern along with the gray-backed tern are collectively known as 'manutara'. The tangata manu or the birdman ritual is a ceremony involving the manutara. The ritual is about the champion who could retrieve or get the first manutara egg from Motu Nui islet. They would become that year's Tangata Manu and their clan would receive prime access to the resources, especially seabird eggs.

The Hawaiian name for this bird is Ewa Ewa which means cacophony.

Sooty Terns spend most of their life at the sea, apart from breeding, they tend to stay away from land for almost 10 years. These birds tend to take one or two-second naps while flying, as they cannot float and there is no place for them to sleep on land when at sea. The feathers of these terns are not waterproof and can get waterlogged, this is the reason that these terns spend a huge amount of time at sea constantly flying.

These terns are loud and make so much noise which is against the standards of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workers to get exposed to the noise for more than half an hour. This bird is also known as the wideawake tern or just wide awake. This is because of the incessant calls produced by colonies of these birds.

A group of terns is known as 'ternery' or a 'U' of terns.

The nesting sites of these terns are vulnerable to rats and cats.

These seabirds are distinguished or different from other species of birds by the fact that the seabirds make their living on the open ocean and outside of nesting and have no attachment to land or do not spend their time on land.

How are gannets and sooty terns different?

Both are seabirds and there exist various similar features among the two but there are certain differences between the two as well.

The northern gannets are large and heavy-bodied and adults have white plumage with a yellowish wash or shade on the head and neck. The flight feathers are black. The young are brown overall with white spotting or spots.

Sooty Terns look slightly different. The upperparts are dark black and the underparts are white. The bill and legs are black in color. The young or the juveniles are scaly gray above and below and the tail is forked. The Sooty Tern has a darker back, broad white forehead, and no pale neck collar as compared to other terns and thus is not generally confused with other terns.

How long can a sooty tern fly?

The exact distance of these birds is unknown but they can reach speed up to 25 mph (40 kph). They also tend to fly for long periods of time and do not really settle on land.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the Caspian tern or least sandpiper.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Sooty tern coloring pages.



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