Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)


French: Guifette moustac German: Weißbart-Seeschwalbe Spanish: Fumarel cariblanco

Sterna hybrida


, 1811,

southern Volga, Russia


Sometimes considered to include C. albostriatus as a race. Subspecific taxonomy confused. Here, forms indicus (E Iran to N India), leggei (Sri Lanka, non-breeding) and swinhoei (Transbaikalia to E China and Taiwan), all sometimes recognized, are included in nominate; fluviatilis (Australia) is synonymized with javanicus; sclateri included in delalandii. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. h. hybrida (Pallas, 1811) – SW & C Europe and N Africa E through W Russia, Middle East and Transcaspia to SC & E Kazakhstan and N India#R, also from L Baikal to Russian Far East and NE & E China; winters in Africa and across to S & SE Asia, also in Greater Sundas, Sulawesi and Philippines.
  • C. h. delalandii (Mathews, 1912) – S & E Africa and Madagascar.
  • C. h. javanicus (Horsfield, 1821) – Australia; winters in N parts of Australia and N to Greater Sundas, Philippines and S New Guinea.
  • Descriptive notes

    23–29 cm; 60–101 g (mean 84 g); wingspan 64–70 cm. Slender, medium-small tern, with wings more rounded than in Sterna; shortish tail with only... read more


    Harsher than in other Palearctic Chlidonias spp.; advertising call is a rasping “kyick”... read more


    Breeds on vegetated inland lakes, marshes and rivers, mainly in lowlands, but up to 2000 m in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Terrestrial and aquatic insects, e.g. water beetles (Dytiscidae), Odonata and their larvae, grasshoppers, flying ants, spiders; also... read more


    May–Jun in Europe, Nov–Dec in Australia, Dec in Tanzania. Forms synchronous subcolonies, usually in monospecific colonies of 10... read more


    W Europe birds migrate to W Africa, wintering at freshwater wetlands inland and on coasts. Small... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population has not been estimated precisely recently but is within the range of 300,000–1,500,000 individuals, and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida). 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 24 January 2020).