Sterna fuscata (Sooty tern) 

Roetsterretjie [Afrikaans]; Bonte stern [Dutch]; Sterne fuligineuse [French]; Ru▀seeschwalbe [German]; Gaivina-de-dorso-preto [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Laridae > Genus: Sterna

Sterna fuscata (Sooty tern)   

Sooty tern, Tern Island, Hawaii. [photo Duncan Wright, US Fish and Wildlife Service]


Distribution and habitat

The world's must abundant tern, it breeds on many tropical islands, including Europa and Tern Islands in the Mozambique channel. It is a fairly common summer visitor to the area off the coast of Mozambique, although rarely sighted near land, it occasionally strays to eastern South Africa and southern Zimbabwe.

Movements and migrations

Disperses after breeding and is mainly recorded in southern African waters in summer.


Mainly eats fish and aquatic invertebrates, doing most of its foraging by plucking prey from the water surface, or alternatively hawking flying fish aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Fish
  • Invertebrates
    • cephalopods
    • hydrozoans
    • fish
    • crustaceans


Not threatened, in fact it is thought to have a global population of approximately 14.5 million individuals.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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