Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)


Black-bellied Tern (Sterna acuticauda)


French: Sterne à ventre noir German: Schwarzbauch-Seeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán ventrinegro

Sterna acuticauda

J. E. Gray

, 1831,

Kanpur, India


In the past, species name commonly given as melanogaster, but that name invalid, as preoccupied. Monotypic.


Pakistan (R Indus) and along major river systems of India E to C Bangladesh and Assam Valley. Now very rare in S China (W Yunnan), Nepal and Myanmar, and probably extinct in NW Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and S Vietnam#R.

Descriptive notes

32–35 cm. Typical tern from above, with black cap and grey back and wings, latter long and pointed; throat white, breast pale grey shading into deep black and brownish-... read more


Gives short, full, dog-like barks, e.g. “nyap” or “nyark”, which vary slightly in pitch and are... read more


Inland lakes and rivers, preferring broad, barren, featureless flats, sand spits and sandy islands... read more

Food and feeding

Insects (including dragonflies) and small fish. Plunge-dives for fish, and aerial-dips for insects over water and land. Despite non-... read more


Feb–May. Early nests sometimes flooded. Often breeds with S. aurantia, skimmers and pratincoles, but not colonial; nests... read more


Not migratory. Virtually unknown away from breeding sites.

Status and conservation

ENDANGERED. The total population is believed to number fewer than 10,000 individuals and is in continuing decline. Now very rare, possibly extinct, in Thailand: sightings of... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J. & de Juana, E. (2019). Black-bellied Tern (Sterna acuticauda). 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 26 May 2019).