Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)


Aleutian Tern (Onychoprion aleuticus)


French: Sterne des Aléoutiennes German: Aleutenseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán aleutiano

Sterna aleutica

S. F. Baird

, 1869,

Kodiak Island, Alaska


Listed by some authors as Sterna camtschatica, particularly in Russia. Monotypic.


Sakhalin through Sea of Okhotsk to Kamchatka and perhaps other sites in Bering Sea; Alaska on Bering and Pacific coasts, from Chukchi Sea and Kotzebue Sound S to Aleutian Is, and E to delta of Copper R and Dry Bay; has bred in Japan (Hokkaido). Main wintering area unknown, although some winter off Indonesia and Malaysia#R#R#R.

Descriptive notes

32–34 cm; 83–140 g; wingspan 75–80 cm. The breeding adult has a white forehead, black cap and lores, mid-grey back and wings, white rump and tail, and... read more


Unique. Mellow, slightly rolling whistled calls: "piiu", "piirr-i-u", "piiu-pi-pip".


Arctic and subarctic coastal plains, mainly around Bering Sea. Partially vegetated sandy and shell... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly small fish. On Sakhalin primarily sticklebacks (Pungitus pungitus, Gasterosteus aculeatus). Feeds both at sea and... read more


Laying mainly Jun. Usually small, monospecific colonies of 4–150 pairs, but up to 700 pairs on Sakhalin; occasionally solitary, or as... read more


A summer visitor to its breeding colonies. It arrives in breeding areas in mid-May and leaves... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Virtually endemic to the Bering Sea but relatively few breeding areas are known. Conservation status poorly known, due to remoteness of nesting colonies. The... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Garcia, E.F.J. & Sharpe, C.J. (2019). Aleutian Tern (Onychoprion aleuticus). 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 9 December 2019).