Sterna maxima (Royal tern) 

Koningsterretjie [Afrikaans]; Koningsstern [Dutch]; Sterne royale [French]; Königsseeschwalbe [German]; Gaivina-real [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 maxima (Royal tern)   

Royal tern, Morro Bay, California, USA. [photo Michael "Mike" L. Baird, ©]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds on island and coasts across the tropical and sub-tropical oceans of the world, including the west coast of Africa, from Mauritania to Angola. It is a vagrant to southern Africa, with multiple records all at the same site in north-western Namibia - the Cunene River mouth, with another sighting at the central Namibian coast. It generally prefers shallow coastal waters and sheltered embayments.


Often forages along with other terns, hunting by plunge-diving from 5-10 metres above water, or alternatively snatching prey from the water surface.


  • 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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