Common Tern (Sterna Nirundo)

Despite its name the Common Tern (Sterna Nirundo) is less common in Britain than the Arctic Tern, but it is the most wide-spread, being found around most of the coast and some way inland.

The Common Tern mainly feeds on fish, eating roach, perch and minnows in fresh water and sprats, sand-eels and small herrings in sea water. They also eat some insects.

The Common Tern is a plunge feeder. When feeding it rises slowly, then hovers before plunging. When not feeding, it is more powerful looking in flight than other UK terns.

The Common Tern has red feet and a red/ orange bill with a black tip. The wings are silver-grey, as are the upper parts of the body. The under parts of the body are pale grey. The head has a black cap, with a white patch at the front in winter.

The juveniles are rather different, with a pink or yellow beak with dark tip, and brown in the wings and on the back.

The Common Tern begins to breed in May. It digs a shallow scrape in sand. The female then lays 2-3 speckled buff, green or blue-white eggs. Both male and female incubate the eggs, which hatch after 21-22 days. The young stay in the nest for 3-4 days before moving to hide in nearby vegetation or dips in the sand. They fly after 22-28 days, and are independent after 2-3 months.

The Common Tern breeds on sandy, rocky or shingle shorelines and also inland. They can be found feeding on coastal waters as well as lakes and rivers. Outside the breeding season they live in the warmer coastal waters of their wintering grounds.

Order: Charadriiformes (Gulls, terns, plovers etc)
Family: Sternidae
Genus: Sterna
Species: Nirundo

The Common Tern is found all around the UK coast apart from the south-west of England, southern Wales and a patch in the south-west of Scotland. It is also found some way inland across large parts of southern England, and in a narrower band close to the coast wherever it is found. The UK birds migrate to West Africa during the winter.

Physical Details
Length: 31-25cm
Weight: 110-140g
Lifespan: Oldest ringed bird 33