Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by John George
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The black tern, Chlidonias niger, breeds in Canada and the northern United States, and migrates south to coastal areas of Central America and South America for winter. The species also occurs in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The black tern is now a rare breeder in northern Utah, but it was once more common in the state.

The black tern inhabits marshes, lakes, and rivers, where it nests in areas that have a mixture of vegetation and standing water. Nests of aquatic vegetation are placed on floating vegetation, floating nest platforms, or mud; nests are usually constructed within several feet of open water. A clutch of two or three eggs is laid by the female and then incubated by both parents for about three weeks. Both parents tend the young, which can fly at about three weeks of age. The black tern eats invertebrates, especially insects, and small fishes.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Peterson, R. T., and V. M. Peterson. 1990. A field guide to western birds, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432 pp.