Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)


French: Guifette leucoptère German: Weißflügel-Seeschwalbe Spanish: Fumarel aliblanco
Other common names: White-winged Black Tern

Sterna leucoptera


, 1815,

Mediterranean coasts


More similar to C. niger than to C. hybrida, but closely related to both; has apparently hybridized with C. niger. Monotypic.


NW Italy and C & E Europe E through Siberia, Transbaikalia and N Mongolia to SE Russia (Amurland) and adjacent NE China; has apparently bred in New Zealand. Winters in Africa, and from S Asia to New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

Descriptive notes

23–27 cm; 42–79 g (mean 66 g in Ukraine, 54 g in winter in Transvaal); wingspan 58–67 cm. Very distinctive in breeding plumage, appearing markedly black and... read more


Most vocal when nesting but at all times of year gives a loud “krek”, “kerr” or “kreek” when... read more


Breeds mainly inland, on vegetated freshwater lakes and swamps, and rice fields (Italy), from... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly aquatic insects (especially Diptera, Odonata, Coleoptera), also terrestrial insects; occasionally small fish or tadpoles. Rarely... read more


Season Apr–Aug, mainly Jun. May skip breeding in drought years. Breeds in small colonies of 3–100 pairs, mostly 20–40,... read more


Migratory. European and W Asian populations leave breeding grounds from late Jul to late Aug,... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population is estimated at 2,500,000-4,500,000 individuals and the overall population trend is stable, although some... read more

Recommended citation

Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Christie, D.A., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus). 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 25 May 2019).