Common tern

Sterna hirundo

What do they look like?

Common terns are elegant birds with long wings and a black cap which extends down the back of its neck. They are silvery white in colour, with a slightly darker shade of grey across their back and upper wing. Similar in appearance to the Arctic tern, the common tern has a slightly longer bill with a black tip, shorter tail streamers, and lighter colouring underneath.

When can I see them in Scotland?

April – September

Where can I see them in Scotland?

The common tern is a summer visitor to Scotland, nesting in colonies on sandy and shingle beaches. It can be seen around the entire Scottish coastline and is often spotted hovering above the water before plunging downwards to catch small fish.

Conservation Status:

In the UK, bird species with breeding, passage or wintering populations are assessed by experts and assigned to the Red, Amber or Green lists of conservation concern. Common terns are currently an ‘Amber’ listed species.

88 cm
21-22 days
22-28 days
12 years
Average lifespan

© Ron Macdonald