Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Near Threatened

Inca Tern (Larosterna inca)


French: Sterne inca German: Inkaseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán inca

Sterna Inca

Lesson & Garnot

, 1827,

Lima, Peru


Unique among terns in morphology, appearance, habitats and habits, and unquestionably warrants separation in monospecific genus. Monotypic.


Humboldt Current region from N Peru (Lobos de Tierra I) S to C Chile (at least to R Aconcagua, Concon Is#R).

Descriptive notes

39–42 cm; 180–210 g (in captivity, average 189 g). Unique and unmistakable; body dark slate, paler on throat and underwing-coverts; white stripe curling back and... read more


Vocal at nesting colonies. Calls include mewing and raucous cackling notes.


Mainly found on inshore “guano islands”, but also 67 km offshore on Hormigas de Afuera... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly small anchovetta (Engraulis ringens); also planktonic crustaceans; offal and scraps. Associates with fishing boats; large... read more


Probably aseasonal. Eggs found Apr–Jul and Oct–Dec; young found mid-Jul. In the north of the range, on the Lobos de Afuera... read more


Permanently resident, with no systematic migration. Non-breeders move opportunistically to follow... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Numbers fluctuate from year to year, depending on food availability in relation to El Niño; populations... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M. & Burger, J. (2020). Inca Tern (Larosterna inca). 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 26 January 2020).