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Common name Common tern
Scientific name Sterna hirundo
Type Seabirds
Status Migrator

Seabird of medium size (about 39 cm or 15.5 in), slender and with plumage of very white tones in the underparts, throat and lower part of the head. Pale grey upperparts and wings. Red bill with a black tip in spring and black with a red base in winter. Short, red legs. Black cap on the head that reaches the nape in summer. In winter the cap is reduced, making the forehead white and the crown striped in black. In flight there are pointed wings and a very forked tail.


Marine environment

Where it lives

Species linked to coastal wetlands and the littoral above all. It avoids inland wetlands. Preference for shallow waters with sandy bottoms such as mouths, salt ponds and marshes.

How it lives

Bird present in the province only during its migratory passages. The Common Tern travels thousands of kilometres from its breeding grounds in northern Europe to equatorial Africa to spend the winter. In the Iberian Peninsula it only breeds in the Atlantic coast and exceptionally in some Mediterranean locations. This seabird nests in colonies and on the ground. One annual laying of 2 to 3 eggs at the end of March or in April. It feeds on small fish and aquatic crustaceans caught with fast plunges in which the tern often gets to dive completely

Where it can be seen in Malaga

Frequent species in the province. It is possible to observe it especially in the coast, fishing both in river mouths and in the beach. The presence of isolated individuals or flocks of a few specimens is common. The mouth of the Guadalhorce is one of its most frequent resting grounds on the coast of Malaga.

Curious facts

Its Latin name, hirundo, makes reference to its similarity in morphology and way of flying with swallows. They share a forked tail and narrow wings in flight. For this reason terns are popularly known as "sea swallows".

Similar birds
Routes where it can be observed
Wintering Summer Resident Migration