Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Near Threatened

River Tern (Sterna aurantia)


French: Sterne de rivière German: Hinduseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán indio

Sterna aurantia

J. E. Gray

, 1831,





E Pakistan to S India and E through Nepal to SW China (Yunnan) and Mekong Delta (S Vietnam).

Descriptive notes

38–46 cm; wingspan 80–85 cm. Typical tern, with black crown and lores and deeply forked tail; darkish grey upperparts; bill somewhat stout, bright yellow; iris... read more


Calls include an emphatic twangy downslurred “kyEEer” and short grating “krree” notes, uttered... read more


Breeds on sandy islands in freshwater lakes and rivers, and rarely estuaries; shuns mainland sites... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly fish, small crustaceans and insects. Usually feeds by plunge-diving. Recorded taking a frog.


One of least studied terns. Breeds mainly Feb–May in dry season, but extreme dates Nov–Jun. First nests often flooded out, and... read more


Mainly a permanent resident, with some short nomadic movements. A few birds winter on seashores of... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened on account of declines in large sectors of its range. Widely distributed in small colonies, but... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2020). River Tern (Sterna aurantia). 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 February 2020).