Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Critically Endangered

Chinese Crested Tern (Thalasseus bernsteini)


French: Sterne d’Orient German: Bernsteinseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán chino

Sterna bernsteini


, 1864,



Has been considered closely related to T. bengalensis; may be close to T. elegans and T. sandvicensis. May have hybridized with T. bergii. Formerly known as T. zimmermanni. Monotypic.


Poorly known. Only recent breeding records at three sites on E China coast, in Jiushan Is and Zhoushan Wuzhishan Is (Zhejiang) and Matsu Is (off Fujian)#R#R; formerly bred off Shandong, but probably extirpated#R. Non-breeding records in SE China, Thailand, Sarawak, Philippines and N & C Moluccas (Halmahera, Seram).

Descriptive notes

42 cm; 240–320 g. Similar to T. bengalensis, but bill stouter, with more pronounced gonydeal angle, orange-yellow with broad black tip; back paler grey.


Poorly documented. Calls include a high-pitched rolling “keerrick” and lower-pitched grating calls. read more


Exclusively coastal and pelagic.

Food and feeding

During breeding season adults forage within c. 5 km of the breeding islets and feed chicks mainly with small and/or young shoaling fishes.... read more


On Jiushan and Wuzhishan archipelagos, Zhejiang province, NE China, six nests confirmed during 2004–2009; breeding season, late May... read more


Appears to migrate to tropics, where recorded from E China (Fujian, Guangdong), Philippines, NW... read more

Status and conservation

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. Poorly known and total population is apparently fewer than 100 individuals. For more than a century known only from a few specimens collected up to... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., de Juana, E., Sharpe, C.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2017). Chinese Crested Tern (Thalasseus bernsteini). 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 on 23 July 2017).