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River Tern - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by James Williams
Ranganatithu, near Mysore, Southern India, January 2007
Sterna aurantia


Winter Plumage
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Jhajjar, Haryana India, Dec-2016

38–46 cm (15-18 inches)


  • Black crown
  • Dark grey upperparts
  • White underparts
  • Black lores
  • Deeply forked tail with long flexible streamers
  • Long pointed wings
  • Stout yellow bill
  • Red legs
Photo © by alkumaheerd
Emer Ab-bandan, Golestan, Iran, January 2005


  • Greyish-white cap with black streaks
  • Dark eye mask
  • Dusky bill tip

The sexes are similar

  • Brown head
  • Grey upperparts with brown marks
  • Grey breast sides
  • White underparts
  • Yellowish bill with a dark tip


Asia: found from Pakistan to southern India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and south-western China.

Occasionally observed in Iran.


This is a monotypic species[1].


Breeds on the sandy islands of freshwater inland rivers and lakes. They rarely visit coasts and estuaries.



Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans, tadpoles and aquatic insects. Has been recorded as eating a frog.

They feed by plunge-diving.


They nest in a ground scrape, often on bare rock or sand. The clutch contains 3 greenish-grey to buff eggs, which are blotched and streaked with brown.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved June 2015)

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