Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Forster's tern, Sterna forsteri, breeds in Canada, parts of the northern United States, and along the Atlantic coast to northeastern Mexico. It winters mainly along sea coasts in the southern United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. It is common in summer in northern Utah, and as a migrant throughout the state. Its habitats include freshwater and saltwater marshes, lakes, bays, and sea coasts. The diet of this species is mainly fishes, but aquatic invertebrates are sometimes consumed.

The nest is on the ground or occasionally on floating debris or vegetation. Typically two or three eggs are laid, and these are incubated by both parents for twenty-three to twenty-five days. The semi-precocial young remain in the nest for only a few days and are tended by both parents until they are able to fly.


  • 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.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

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