Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)


Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum)


French: Sterne des baleiniers German: Damaraseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrancito de Damara

Sternula balænarum


, 1853,

Damaraland, Namibia


Sometimes thought to be close to the S. albifrons group (see that species). Monotypic.


S Angola#R S on coast to S South Africa (Cape provinces); recorded N to Cabinda (N Angola) during breeding season. Migrates N as far as Ghana, and rarely to Liberia#R.

Descriptive notes

23 cm; 46 g; wingspan 51 cm. Typical small tern, but all black bill, black forehead and lores; legs yellowish to dusky. Non-breeding adult has white forehead, and crown... read more


A sharp, high-pitched "tsit tsit" and a harsh, rapid "kid-ick" or "rrreekikkik".


Breeds on gravel and stony plains and dunes, up to 3 km inland; shuns outer beach frequented by... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly small fishas well as small squid. The Cape Silverside Atherina breviceps, Southern Mullet Liza richardsonii, Cape... read more


Late Oct to mid-Nov, with new clutches into Feb. Groups of 1–10 pairs, occasionally 50; nests widely spaced, average distance 57... read more


An intra-African migrant, spending the non-breeding period on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea,... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. A total of 70 breeding colonies are known across entire breeding range, of which 56 (accounting for 87%–93% of the breeding population) are found along... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., de Juana, E., Garcia, E.F.J. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum). 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 20 February 2020).