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Bridled Tern

Onychoprion anaethetus

Length: 15 inches Wingspan: 30 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Black upper head and nape, white forehead and stripe above eyes, dark gray upperparts, white underparts, thin black bill

Bridled Tern - Onychoprion anaethetusThe Bridled Tern is a bird of warm tropical and subtropical waters.  In North America, they are most commonly seen in warm waters off the coast of the southeastern United States, and small numbers have nested in southern Florida in recent decades.  They also can be found throughout the Caribbean, the west coast of Africa, the Middle East, southeast Asia, and the Australia region.  They are similar to the Sooty Tern, but Bridled Terns are slightly smaller and not as dark on the wings and back.

Habitat: Found on islands in tropical and sub-tropical waters when breeding, preferring islands with suitable shelter for nest sites, such as rocky areas or shrubs.  At other seasons, found in and around warm waters, typically relatively close to shore rather than far out to sea.

Diet: Feeds on fish, as well as crustaceans, small squid, and insects.

Behavior: Most foraging is done while flying low over the water's surface and dipping down to capture prey items at or near the surface. 

Nesting: The nest of a Bridled Tern is a depression on the ground without any lining, placed in the shelter of a shrub or rock.  The female lays a single egg, and both parents help to incubate it.  When the egg hatches, both parents help feed the youngster, by regurgitating fish.  The young fledges after about 2 months, but is still typically tended to by the parents for another month after that.

Song: The most common call of a Bridled Tern is a ascending whistling with a mellow tone.

Migration: In North America, small numbers have nested in southern Florida in recent decades, but are only present during the summer months.  Most depart for warmer waters in the winter, but there have been some sightings of Bridled Terns in the winter, in warmer waters off the coast.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive map of Bridled Tern sightings

Similar Species: Sooty Tern

Conservation Status: Population trends are relatively stable, they are found over a wide geographic area, and they are relatively common in parts of their range.  The IUCN lists the Bridled Tern as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Audubon Guide - Bridled Tern

2) BirdLife International - Bridled Tern

3) WhatBird - Bridled Tern

Photo Information: Photo taken by Frankie Chu - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Bridled tern - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Bridled Tern Photos (coming soon!!)