Did You Know? 17 Incredible White Winged Tern Facts

To learn more about this bird, read these White-winged Tern facts.

The white-winged tern, Chlidonias Leucopterus as it is scientifically known, belongs to the Laridae family and genus Chlidonias. These are found in freshwater marshes in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Australia. It is rarely found in North America on the Atlantic coast but they have been recorded on the Pacific coast and in the Great Lakes area. The habitat of these birds differs in the breeding season and non-breeding season or the winter season. The breeding plumage and the non-breeding or winter plumage of these birds also differ. They have a black neck and belly, dark gray back white rump and the underwing coverts are grayish, and in the winter the plume is lighter, duller, or pale than the dark plume and the white rump and other body parts can become grayish. The bill is red to black in color and the legs are reddish-black. Juveniles look similar to non-breeding adults. The white-winged tern, Chlidonias Leucopterus, feeds on small fish, aquatic and ground insects, frogs, and tadpoles and mostly hunts for food in flight. This species is commonly referred to as White-winged black tern.

It is interesting to know about this species of bird, the White-winged Tern, Chlidonias Leucopterus, or the white-winged black tern and if you are interested, read about horned lark facts and laughing gull facts too.

White Winged Tern

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Insects, fishes

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

0.13 lb (0.063 kg)

How long are they?

8-11 in (203-279 mm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Gray, black, white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Habitat destruction

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Freshwater marshes


Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia





Scientific Name

Chlidonias leucopterus





White Winged Tern Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a white winged tern?

White-winged Tern is a species of bird.

What class of animal does a white winged tern belong to?

It belongs to the class of Aves of birds.

How many white winged tern are there in the world?

The estimation of 2015 states that there are 3,100,000-4,000,000 of these terns globally.

Where does a white winged tern live?

These terns can be found in freshwater marshes in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Australia and some  have been recorded on the Pacific coast and in the Great Lakes area in North America.

What is a white winged tern's habitat?

The breeding habitat of these terns includes freshwater ponds, lakes, marshes, and swamps bordered with vegetation. Migration and winter or non-breeding habitats include more open habitats and areas like open lakes, estuaries, lagoons, and rocky coasts.  

Who do white winged tern live with?

These birds can be spotted in small flocks generally and in winters, large flocks are formed.

How long does a white winged tern live?

The lifespan of this tern is unknown.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding of these species takes place around April and August. The breeding happens in small colonies of around 20-40 pairs. The breeding habitat includes freshwater lakes and ponds. The nest is built or constructed with plant materials like stems and the nests are shallow and shaped like a cup in are placed on the floating vegetation in these marshes and ponds or on the ground but areas very close to water. Around two to four glossy eggs are laid and incubation happens for about 18-22 days to hatching and it is done by both the parents. These are known to hybridize with black terns in Netherlands and Sweden. These birds mature sexually around the age of two.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of white-winged Terns, Chlidonias Leucopteras, is Least Concern.

White Winged Tern Fun Facts

What do white winged tern look like?

The coloration of the body and head are some of its identifiable features.

The summer and winter plumes or bodies of these birds differ. In summer, these species have a dark gray back, black colored belly, and neck. The rump of the breeding adult is white and the tail is gray to whitish in color. The face has been observed to have a tinge of yellowish color. As the names suggest, these terns have white-colored wings and the inner parts of the wings are grayish and have brown-colored tips.

The winter plumage of these birds is dull or paler and the black-colored body parts become pale and dull gray. The head is black in color and has a white colored forehead. The eye has a patch that is dark and the collar part is wide and white. The most distinguishing feature of the winter plume is the crown which is blackish-brown dotted with white and the hind crown is black with white spots.

The bill of this bird is black and the feet and legs are reddish-black. The bill can sometimes be red or black.

The young ones of this species are known to look like the adults in their winter plumage but they have a whole black cap.

How cute are they?

This bird is not considered cute.

How do they communicate?

Not much information is available about the communication of these species but it is believed that just like other birds, terns produce calls and sounds to communicate.

How big is a white winged tern ?

These species are sized between a robin and a crow and are smaller than a common tern and known to be slightly larger than a least tern. The length of these birds is around 8-11 in (203-279 mm).

How fast can a white winged tern fly?

The exact speed of this bird is unknown but they are known to be good flyers.

How much does a white winged tern weigh?

The weight of these birds is around 0.13 lb (0.063 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for a male and female of this species.

What would you call a baby white winged tern ?

While there is no particular name for a baby of this tern species, they are generally referred to as chicks, young, or juveniles.

What do they eat?

These terns are known to feed on aquatic and some ground insects. The diet also includes fishes, tadpoles, and frogs. These birds are known to fly slowly over the water to hunt prey from the surface during flight. These birds do not dive in the water to find or hunt for food and hunt for prey in flight.

Are they dangerous?

These terns are not considered to be dangerous or harmful.

Would they make a good pet?

Not much information is available about these terns as pets but it is believed that these birds do not make good pets as they are wild and migratory.

Did you know...

A Dutch zoologist and aristocrat Coenraad Temminck first described the White-winged tern, Chlidonias Leucopterus in 1815.

During the migration in the fall, the European population attracts bird watchers.

White-winged Black tern name is popularly used as an alternative to White-winged tern and the name White-winged tern is commonly used in the United Kingdom.

The breeding plumage of these birds is very similar to the plumage or appearance of the black terns and the two species are sometimes confused with each other.

This migrant is quite rare in North America.

Are white winged tern migratory?

White-winged tern, Chlidonias Leucopterus, tend to migrate from breeding grounds to winter grounds. These terns are in Europe, Central Asia, and in winter, they travel or migrate to Africa, Australia, and southern Asia.

Is white winged tern endemic?

The white-winged tern is not endemic to specific areas.

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 flycatcher facts or cerulean warbler

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



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