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

38–43 cm; 240–320 g; wingspan 94 cm. Large, slender tern with short crest and forked tail; recalls smaller and paler T. bergi. Breeding adult has... read more


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 apparently fewer than 100 individuals. For more than 100 years known only from a few specimens collected prior to... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., de Juana, E., Sharpe, C.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). 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 25 February 2020).