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White Tern - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Common White Tern)
Adult G. a. candida
Photo © by JWN Andrewes
Isle de Cocos, Rodrigues Island, Mauritius Island, May 2002

Alternative name: Angel Tern, Fairy Tern, Little Fairy-tern

Gygis alba

Includes: Little White Tern


10-12" (25-30.5 cm); wings 28" (71 cm)

  • Snowy white with dark eye
  • Black bill with blue base
  • Black eye ring
  • Light grey feet (microrhyncha with black feet)


Seychelles. Polynesia, Micronesia, Fiji, Marquesas


Juvenile G. a. candida
Photo © by Ken Doy
Norfolk Island, Australia, 3 May 2016


There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • G. a. alba:
  • Fernando de Noronha, Trinidade, Martin Vas Rocks, Ascension Island and St. Helena island
  • G. a. candida:
  • Seychelles and Mascarene islands and south Pacific to Hawaii, Clipperton and Cocos islands
  • G. a. leucopes:
  • G. a. microrhyncha:
  • Marquesas, Phoenix and Line islands - sometimes regarded as full species, Little White Tern


Coasts, vegetated coral islets.



Adult G. a. candida
Photo by axel1950
Bird Island, Seychelles, 23 February 2006

This is a seabird which breeds on small islands. The egg is laid directly on a branch without any nest; they also use rocky ledges to lay their eggs.


Their diet consists mostly of small fish and marine insects. They also sometimes take squid and crustaceans.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Common White Tern (Gygis alba). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/54054 on 24 October 2019).
  3. Higgins, P.J. & Davies, S.J.J.F. (editors) 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Volume 3, Snipe to pigeons. Melbourne, Oxford University Press. [Vol. 2, pages 648-649] Vol. 3, pages 384-385, 573-576, 825-833; plates 45 & 46.
  4. Niethammer, K. R. and L. B. Patrick (1998). White Tern (Gygis alba), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.371
  5. Szabo, M.J. 2013 [updated 2017]. White tern. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

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