Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Little White Tern (Gygis microrhyncha)


French: Gygis à bec fin German: Elfenseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán blanco picofino

Gygis microrhyncha

H. Saunders

, 1876,

Marquesas Islands


Apparently interbreeds with G. alba in Kiribati, and possibly E to Marquesas#R#R; recent study proposes conspecific treatment, on basis of genetics and morphometrics alone#R. Recognized as a species here on basis of previously published evidence#R, supported by other authors#R: smaller size, i.e. 23 vs 31 cm in length (based on a small sample of NHMUK measurements, effect size −5.03; ns); shallower tail notch (tail-length effect size −11.78; score 4); more black around eye (at least 1); whitish vs dark shafts of primaries (2); bill black, with no blue or only trace at base (subscore 1) and markedly narrower (subscore 2) (3). Monotypic.


Marquesas Is (Eiao to Fatu Hiva) and apparently also Phoenix Is and Line Is.

Descriptive notes

c. 23 cm; 77–122 g; wingspan 76–80 cm. All-white tern, with no seasonal or sex-related variation; for differences from formerly conspecific G. alba, see Taxonomy.... read more


No known differences from formerly conspecific G. alba. Little vocal communication between... read more


Coral islets, usually with vegetation. Nests in trees and bushes, and on rocky slopes and cliffs.... read more

Food and feeding

No known differences from G. alba; note that some data presented for the latter species, collected on Kiribati might pertain to... read more


Not well studied, although presumably similar in many respects to G. alba and note that some information from Kiribati, cited... read more


Life history away from colonies virtually unknown, but there is a specimen record of this species... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Few population estimates, but more than 1000 pairs were breeding on Hatuta’a, in the Marquesas Is, in 2010. Overall, the species’... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Little White Tern (Gygis microrhyncha). 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).