Sterna nilotica (Gull-billed tern) 

[= Gelochelidon nilotica

Oostelike sterretjie [Afrikaans]; Lachstern [Dutch]; Sterne hansel [French]; Lachseeschwalbe [German]; Gaivina-de-bico-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 nilotica (Gull-billed tern)  Sterna nilotica (Gull-billed tern) 

Gull-billed tern in non-breeding plumage, Kuwait. [photo rashed11112 ]

Gull-billed tern in breeding plumage, Queensland, Australia. [photo David King ]

Distribution and habitat

Mainly breeds in Northern Hemisphere in North America and Eurasia, travelling south in the non-breeding season to South America, India, South-East Asia, Australia and Africa, from eastern Sudan through Somalia and Tanzania to Malawi. It is a rare vagrant to southern Africa, with over a dozen records spread across northern Botswana and Zimbabwe, Mozambique and KwaZu-Natal, generally preferring large rivers and lakes inland, while occurring in estuaries and lagoons along the coast.


Its diet consists of a variety of small animals, such as fiddler crabs (Uca) and insects, doing most of its foraging by plunge-diving into the water.


  • 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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