Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Near Threatened

White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata)


French: Sterne tara German: Weißstirn-Seeschwalbe Spanish: Charrán maorí

Sterna striata

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

New Zealand


Genetic data#R indicate that present species and S. dougallii, S. sumatrana, S. hirundinacea, S. hirundo, S. paradisaea and S. vittata may form a monophyletic group, with S. forsteri and S. trudeaui possibly also part of this group. Validity of races requires study; species sometimes considered monotypic#R. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. s. incerta Mathews, 1912 – Flinders I and Cape Barren I, off NE Tasmania.
  • S. s. striata J. F. Gmelin, 1789 – North I, South I and Stewart I (New Zealand).
  • S. s. aucklandorum Mathews, 1929 – Chatham Is and Auckland Is.
  • Winter visitor to Australia from S Queensland to Tasmania and W to South Australia.

    Descriptive notes

    39–42 cm; 103–160 g. Crown black, with narrow white forehead and lores; upperparts pale grey, including long tail which extends beyond folded wingtip; underparts... read more


    The main call is a high-pitched “siet”; a harsh “keark” or “keeahk” is given by birds defending... read more


    Coastal areas, nesting on rocky or sandy beaches and shingle islands in rivers, also on coastal... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost exclusively fish; also shrimps. Feeds in surf zone or several kilometres out to sea, often in flocks. Plunge-dives from 7–10 m... read more


    Lays Oct–Dec. Most colonies contain 100–500 pairs, but solitary pairs reported at margin of range. Some colonies stable for... read more


    Most remain in New Zealand in winter but some disperse N there. Some, mostly immatures, disperse to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened). The great majority breed in New Zealand, where survey results from the 1990s suggested a total population of... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gochfeld, M., Burger, J. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata). 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 7 December 2019).