Aleutian tern

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Aleutian tern
Aleutian Tern.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Onychoprion
O. aleuticus
Binomial name
Onychoprion aleuticus
(Baird, 1869)

Onychoprion aleutica (lapsus)
Sterna aleutica Baird, 1869

The Aleutian tern (Onychoprion aleuticus, formerly Sterna aleutica)[2] is a seabird in the family Laridae. The genus name is from Ancient Greek onux, "claw", and prion, "nail". The specific aleuticus refers to the Aleutian Islands.[3]

This species breeds in colonies on coasts and islands in Alaska and easternmost Siberia. It is a long distance migrant, wintering in Australasia and Oceania, near Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and points in between. Large numbers appear off China and points south to Malaysia during passage periods.

It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe, with just one record, on the Coquet Island off Northumberland, England on 28–29 May 1979.

It lays 2–3 eggs in a ground scrape. It sometimes nests among Arctic terns, which, like most white terns, are fiercely defensive of their nest and young and will attack large predators. The Aleutian tern, however, is not aggressive in defense of its nests or young.

Like most other terns, the Aleutian tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, usually from saline environments. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

This is a medium-sized tern, with a short, pointed bill and a long, deeply forked tail. It has a black cap with a white forehead, dark gray mantle and underparts and a mostly pale underwing with a dark secondary bar. Whereas the forehead bar disappears in winter, the dark secondary bar remains. It has a white rump and tail, black legs and a black bill.

The call is a musical whee-hee-hee.


  1. ^ IUCN (2017). "Onychoprion aleuticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. ^ Bridge, E. S.; Jones, A. W. & Baker, A. J. (2005). A phylogenetic framework for the terns (Sternini) inferred from mtDNA sequences: implications for taxonomy and plumage evolution Archived 2006-07-20 at the Wayback Machine. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 35: 459–469.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 41, 282. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.