Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana)


French: Sterne diamant German: Schwarznacken-Seeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán de Sumatra

Sterna Sumatrana


, 1822,



Genetic data#R indicate that present species and S. dougallii, S. striata, S. hirundinacea, S. hirundo, S. paradisaea and S. vittata may form a monophyletic group, with S. forsteri and S. trudeaui possibly also part of this group. Thought to be closely related to S. dougallii, with which sometimes nests, but chick pattern very different. Races differ primarily in shape. Species sometimes considered monotypic. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. s. mathewsi Stresemann, 1914 – Seychelles (Aldabra, Farquhar, Alphonse#R, Amirante), Chagos Archipelago and Maldive Is, in W Indian Ocean.
  • S. s. sumatrana Raffles, 1822 – Andaman and Nicobar Is E to S Japan and China, and S through Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and New Guinea to NE & E Australia and Pacific islands (Micronesia S to New Caledonia and E to Samoa), with breeding also suspected (at least formerly) in S Myanmar; birds from Japan and China winter to S.
  • Descriptive notes

    30–35 cm; 97–120 g; wingspan 66 cm. Forehead and crown white; black band from eyes around nape, in side view appearing to sweep sharply down back of neck,... read more


    Includes various short, high-pitched, repeated sharp notes; "chit", "chip", "chrrut", "tsip".


    Frequents small rocky, coral and sandy offshore islands, reefs, sand spits and rocky cays. Feeds in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on small fish, 4–8 cm long: Engraulidae, Exocoetidae, Atherinidae, Clupeidae, and secondarily other families (... read more


    Lays May in India and Polynesia, Sept–Nov in Indian Ocean (though season probably more protracted on Chagos archipelago), Jul in... read more


    Resident around some colonies and disperses to sea from others. Migration routes, if any, not... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population remains unknown. Thousands nest throughout SW Pacific, which appears to be the stronghold of the species, but most... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gochfeld, M., Burger, J. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana). 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 25 March 2019).