Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern Breeding adults (with crest slightly raised)
Caspian Tern – Breeding Adults (with crest slightly raised)
Caspian Tern Juvenile
Caspian Tern – Juvenile

Caspian Terns are the largest terns in the world. 

Breeding adult Caspian Terns are easily recognizable because of their black hoods, and thick, bright red bills (sometimes with a dark tip).

They have pale gray backs and wings, white underparts, and black legs. The black hoods can sometimes be raised into short crests.

Nonbreeding adult Caspian Terns are similar but with a grayish crown.

Juveniles also don’t have the black crest. They have a streaky brown-black crown instead. Also, they have brownish, scaled markings on their backs and wings. Their underparts are still white. 

  • Hydroprogne caspia
  • Length: 18.5 – 21.3 in (47 – 54 cm)
  • Weight: 18.7 – 27.6 oz (530 – 782 g) 
  • Wingspan: 49.6 – 50.4 in (126 – 128 cm)


Caspian Terns are found around the world. Those that breed inland in North America, but can be found all year along the southern Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, and Central America.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Caspian Terns flocking together along seacoasts, ocean coasts, and barrier islands. During migration, it’s common to see them in estuaries, salt marshes, and large inland lakes and rivers. Breeding and nesting sites are often shelly and sandy beaches with little or no vegetation to make it easy to detect predators. 

Caspian Terns feed mostly on fish, hunting them over water and diving rapidly to capture them. They may totally submerge themselves but sometimes they can easily snatch the fish from the surface. They will also prey on crayfish, other birds’ eggs, mussels, and large insects and have been known to eat dead fish on beaches.

Caspian Tern Calls:


Nests of Caspian Terns may be isolated or found in colonies together with other birds. Both adults build the nest together on open ground with sand, shells, pebbles, gravel, or dirt. Sometimes they also use floating mats of debris as a platform. 

The female lays one to three eggs which she and the male incubate for twenty-five to twenty-eight days. 

Fun Fact:

As part of the courtship process, males capture fish and bring it back to feed to the female. If the female is receptive, she will accept the fish offering.