Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)


French: Sterne caspienne German: Raubseeschwalbe Spanish: Pagaza piquirroja

Sterna caspia


, 1770,

Caspian Sea


Species name often given as H. tschegrava, particularly in Russian works, name dating from same year as caspia; to avoid further confusion, name tschegrava officially suppressed in 1970#R. Australian and New Zealand birds sometimes separated as race strenua, but characters matched by many individuals of other populations. Monotypic.


North America, N Europe (mainly Baltic), Africa, Madagascar, C & S Asia, Australia (coastal, and sparsely inland), New Zealand; everywhere very local. Breeding range has recently extended northwards in the eastern Pacific into Alaska, and successful nesting has been reported north of the Arctic Circle at Krusenstern Lagoon on the Chukchi Sea coastline#R. Disperses more widely in winter.

Descriptive notes

48–56 cm; 574–782 g; wingspan 127–140 cm. Largest tern; large, stout blood red bill with variable black tip, and slightly forked tail; also distinguished by... read more


 A hoarse deep "krree-ahk". A loud, barking "ra, ra, ra, raeu, rra" is uttered in raucous... read more


Locally along coasts, as well as on large inland lakes and reservoirs, breeding on sand, shell or... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly small to medium-sized fish; occasionally eggs and young of other birds, and carrion. Takes larger fish (usually over 9 cm and up to... read more


Apr–Jun in N Hemisphere, Sept–Dec in S Hemisphere, but nearly year-round in N Australia. Densely colonial to solitary. Some... read more


North American and European birds show brief post-breeding dispersal, then migrate slowly S. Baltic... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population is sizable, estimated at 240,000–420,000 birds, and increasing overall, although trends vary regionally.... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia). 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 February 2020).