Common Tern, Visdief, Flußseeschwalbe, Andorinha-do-mar-comum, Charrán Común

Spotted in the Alentejo region of Portugal.                              Common Tern sound    

The Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a circumpolar distribution, its four subspecies breeding in temperate and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America.

Common Tern Birding Portugal
Common Tern


It is strongly migratory, wintering in coastal tropical and subtropical regions. Breeding adults have light grey upperparts, white to very light grey underparts, a black cap, orange-red legs, and a narrow pointed bill. Depending on the subspecies, the bill may be mostly red with a black tip or all black. There are a number of similar species, including the partly sympatric Arctic Tern, which can be separated on plumage details, leg and bill colour, or vocalisations.

Breeding in a wider range of habitats than any of its relatives, the Common Tern nests on any flat, poorly vegetated surface close to water, including beaches and islands, and it readily adapts to artificial substrates such as floating rafts. The nest may be a bare scrape in sand or gravel, but it is often lined or edged with whatever debris is available. Up to three eggs may be laid, their dull colours and blotchy patterns providing camouflage on the open beach. Incubation is by both sexes, and the eggs hatch in around 21–22 days, longer if the colony is disturbed by predators. The downy chicks fledge in 22–28 days. Like most terns, this species feeds by plunge-diving for fish, either in the sea or in freshwater, but molluscs, crustaceans and other invertebrate prey may form a significant part of the diet in some areas.


Eggs and young are vulnerable to predation by mammals such as rats and American mink, and large birds including gulls, owls and herons. Common Terns may be infected by lice, parasitic worms, and mites, although blood parasites appear to be rare. Its large population and huge breeding range mean that this species is classed as being of Least Concern, although numbers in North America have declined sharply in recent decades. Despite international legislation protecting the Common Tern, in some areas populations are threatened by habitat loss, pollution or the disturbance of breeding colonies.

Other synonyms:

Afrikaans: Gewone Seeswael , Gewone Sterretjie
Asturian: Garrochín
Breton: Ar skravig boutin, Gwennili-mor, Perig, Scravig, Skrav, Skravig
Catalan: Curroc, Llambritja, Xatrac comú
Catalan (Balears): Llambritja
Valencian: Curroc
Czech: Rybák obecný
Welsh: Gwennol-y-môr, Morwennol gyffredin, Ysgraell, Ysgrechen
Danish: Fjordterne
German: Flußseeschwalbe, Fluss-Seeschwalbe
English: Black-billed Common Tern, Common Tern, Sea-swallow
Spanish: Charrán Común, Charrán pico grueso, Charrán piquinegro, Gaviota Común, Gaviota golondrina común, Gaviotín, Gaviotín boreal, Gaviotín Común, Gaviotín golondrina, Gaviotín pico grueso, Golondrina de Mar, Golondrina-marina Común, Visdief
Spanish (Argentine): Gaviotín golondrina, Gaviotín pico grueso
Spanish (Chile): Gaviotín boreal
Spanish (Colombia): Gaviotín Común
Spanish (Costa Rica): Charrán Común, Charrán piquinegro
Spanish (Cuba): Gaviota Común
Spanish (Dominican Rep.): Charrán Común, Gaviota Común
Spanish (Honduras): Gaviota golondrina común
Spanish (Mexico): charrán común, Charrán pico grueso, Golondrina-marina Común
Spanish (Nicaragua): Charrán Común
Spanish (Paraguay): Gaviotín
Spanish (Uruguay): Gaviotín Golondrina, Golondrina de Mar
Spanish (Venezuela): Tirra Medio Cuchillo
Estonian: Jogitiir, Jõgitiir
Basque: Txenada, Txenada arrunt, Txenada arrunta, Xatrac comú
Finnish: Kalatiira
Faroese: Kriterna
French: Hirondelle de mer, Pierre-Garin, Sterne commune, Sterne hirondelle, Sterne pierregarin
Irish: Geabhróg
Guadeloupean Creole French: Petite mauve
Gaelic: Steàrnag
Galician: Carrán común, Xatrac comú
Guarani: Atî
Manx: Gibbyn Gant, Gollan marrey, Spithag, Spyrryd
Haitian Creole French: Fou bèk wouj
Croatian: Crvenokljuna Cigra
Hungarian: Küszvágó csér
Indonesian: Dara laut biasa, Dara laut hirunda, Daralaut Biasa, Dara-laut biasa
Icelandic: Sílaþerna
Italian: Sterna comune
Japanese: ajisashi, Akaashi-ajisashi
Latin: Sterna hirundo
Malay: Camar Siput
Dutch: Visdief, Visdiefje
Norwegian: Makrellterne
Polish: Rybitwa pospolita, Rybitwa rózowa, rybitwa rzeczna, Rybitwa zwyczajna
Portuguese: andorinha do mar comum, Andorinha-do-mar-comum, Gaivina-comum, Garajau-comum, Inha-do-mar-comum, trinta-réis, Trinta-réis-boreal, Trinta-réis-de-bico-preto
Portuguese (Brazil): trinta-réis, Trinta-réis-boreal, Trinta-réis-de-bico-preto
Romansh: Pestgarel da flum
Russian: Rechnaya Krachka
Scots: Stearnag
Northern Sami: Mákreallacearret
Slovenian: navadna cigra
Albanian: Dallëndyshe e zakonshme deti
Swedish: Fisktärna
Swahili: Shakwe Mbayuwayu
Tamil: [Kadal kuruvi] Vietnamese: Nhàn
Xhosa: Unothenteza


Travel Birdwatching Holiday Alentejo, Vacation Portugal for birders to see birds on your trip.

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