Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by R. Dietz
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Caspian tern, Sterna caspia, breeds in widely scattered locations throughout the world and winters in other scattered locations, although there are a few places where the species can be found year-round. In Utah, the Caspian tern is uncommon during summer in the northern part of the state, where the species has been known to occasionally breed. The habitat of this species is large lakes, marshes, islands (in both lakes and rivers), beaches, bays, and coastal waters. Its foods are almost exclusively fishes, but it occasionally takes aquatic invertebrates, such as crayfish and insects.

This species nests on the ground on a variety of substrates, usually in open, sparsely vegetated areas. Nesting often is in colonies or in association with other ground-nesting birds such as shorebirds. The two or three (rarely one or four) eggs are incubated by both parents for twenty-five to twenty-eight days. The semi-precocial young are tended by both parents. They leave the nest after a few days and are able to fly after twenty-five to thirty days.


  • Cuthbert, F. J., and L. R. Wires. 1999. Caspian tern. Birds of North America 403: 131.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds. 2nd ed. Academic, San Diego. 347 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., E. D. Sorensen, and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. vi + 108 pp.