Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)


French: Sterne huppée German: Eilseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán piquigualdo
Other common names: Swift Tern

Sterna Bergii

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Has been thought to be closely related to T. maximus and there is recent evidence that it forms part of a genetic cluster with West African Royal Terns Thalasseus maximus albididorsalis and Lesser Crested Terns T. bengalensis (of all subspecies)#R. Possibly hybridizes with T. bernsteini. Subspecific taxonomy unusually confusing; proposed race enigma now synonymized with nominate, and race gwendolenae is perhaps better included within cristatus; many other races proposed, e.g. bakeri (Makran coast, in SE Iran and S Pakistan), edwardsi (Sri Lanka), halodramus (Sulu Is, in SW Philippines), pelecanoides (Torres Strait, NE Australia), poliocerca (Tasmania). In contrast, species sometimes treated as monotypic. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. b. velox (Cretzschmar, 1827) – Red Sea and NW Somalia E to Myanmar, Maldives and Sri Lanka; W populations winter S to Kenya.
  • T. b. thalassinus (Stresemann, 1914) – Tanzania, Seychelles, Aldabra and Rodrigues I, and possibly this race in NW Madagascar; wanders to S Somalia.
  • T. b. bergii (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – Namibia to South Africa; some non-breeders to S Mozambique.
  • T. b. cristatus (Stephens, 1826) – Malaysia to Philippines and Ryukyu Is; E Australia to Society and Tuamotu Is.
  • T. b. gwendolenae (Mathews, 1912) – W & NW Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    43–53 cm; 320–400 g (velox 340–400 g, thalassinus 320–350 g, cristatus 325–383 g); wingspan 100–130 cm. Large... read more


    Highly vocal, especially at nesting colonies. The territorial advertising call is a loud, raucous,... read more


    Tropical and subtropical coasts and oceanic islands. More marine than T. maximus. Nests on... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on fish (10–15 cm long); also opportunistically on squid, crabs, insects, baby turtles and other aquatic prey. In a... read more


    Recorded Apr–Jun in Indian Ocean, May–Jun in Sudan and S Africa, Aug in Somalia, Oct in Kenya, Nov in Tanzania, Sept–Dec... read more


    Movement patterns mostly unknown, and many populations are more or less resident around breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population not known precisely but may exceed 2,000,000 individuals. The species is nonetheless locally vulnerable owing to... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii). 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 18 February 2020).