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Caspian Tern, Sterna caspia


The Caspian Tern is the largest tern in the world, with a length of 480–560 mm. The breeding plumage is white, with grey back and upper wings and dark primary feathers. The crown is black from bill to nape with a slight crest. The heavy bill is long and red-orange with a small black tip. In contrast to many other species of tern, the tail is only slightly forked.

Outside the breeding season, the crown is finely streaked with dark brown and the forehead is white. The sexes are similar. Immature birds are similar to non-breeding adults, while younger birds grey and brown mottling.


Caspian Terns are generally coastal, but can also be found in large inland lakes and rivers, wetlands and sheltered estuaries. They occur singularly, in pairs or small groups.


Caspian Terns are plunge feeders, hovering above the water with bill pointing down, before diving to catch fish.


Caspian Terns breed mainly on low offshore islands in single pairs or in small colonies. The breeding season runs from August/September through to January. The nest is a scrape in sand or shingle or among low vegetation. One to two eggs are laid.

Both sexes share nest-building, incubation and care of the young. Fledging occurs after 35–45 days.


The call is a loud, harsh "kraa" often given in flight.
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania


Caspian Terns are found throughout the world. They can be seen in most coastal areas in Tasmania including King Island and the Furneaux islands. They occur in low numbers.


Like many shore birds, the Caspian Tern is subject to disturbance at breeding time by natural and feral species predation, high tides and human disturbance.