• Common Tern 


Scientific name
Sterna hirundo (Linnaeus, 1758)

Red Data Book Status


    • Available tours to watch this bird 

Birding Full Day Trip | Desertas Island Expedition

  • Identification

The breeders have a black cap, pale grey upperparts, and very pale grey underparts. The bill is red narrow and pointed with a black tip. Legs are orange-red and the tail and rump are white.

  • Voice

A sound similar to a kirrek – kirrek – kirrek.

  • Ecology

Breeding season starts in late March until September when most part of the birds leave. They breed in small colonies on coastal areas and in small islets.  These birds lay between 1 and 4 eggs, which are incubated for 22 to 28 days.
The diet of this specie is mainly small fish but occasionally crustaceans, insects and invertebrates can also be found.

  • Distribution

The common tern is widely distributed, being present in Europe, Asia and North America. Is present in all the islands of the archipelago, nesting on the coast, rocks, fishing ports and islets.


The maximum-recorded age on this species was 33 years 

  • Common Tern Sighting


September 2013, Machico - Madeira Island © Birds & Company



August 2012, Porto Moniz - Madeira Island © Roberto Moritz


April 2013, São Vicente - Madeira Island © Birds & Company

  • Literature

[1] Equipa Atlas 2008. Atlas das Aves Nidificantes em Portugal (1999-2005). Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade, Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves, Parque Natural da Madeira e Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e do Mar. Assírio & Alvim. Lisboa. 

[2] BirdLife International - Common tern (March, 2011) http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3270

[3] Granadeiro, J.P., Monteiro, L.R., Silva, M.C. and Furness, R.W.  (2002) Diet of common terns in the Azores, northeast Atlantic. Waterbirds, 25(2): 149-155.

[4] Mullarney, Killian; Svensson, Lars; Zetterstrom, Dan; Grant, Peter (1999). Collins Bird Guide. London: Collins.


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