Yellow-billed tern

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Yellow-billed tern
Yellow-billed tern Sternula superciliaris.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Sternula
S. superciliaris
Binomial name
Sternula superciliaris
(Vieillot, 1819)

Sterna superciliaris


The yellow-billed tern (Sternula superciliaris) is a small seabird found in South America. It is a species of tern in the family Laridae. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are rivers, swamps, and freshwater lakes.


It measures approximately 23-25 centimeters in body length and weighs 40-57 grams.[2] It has a yellow beak and feet, silvery grey wings and white underbody and forehead. Its crown, nape, and eyeline are black. Juveniles are brown and white without the black cap.[3]


It frequently nests alongside colonies of the large-billed tern (Phaetusa simplex) and the black skimmer (Rynchops niger).[4] The yellow-billed tern breeds from August to December on sand banks and island beaches. Non-breeding season habitats include coastal lagoons, river mouths, and rice fields.[5] Their nests consist of shallow scrapes in the sand. Most commonly a clutch contains 2 eggs, but the yellow-billed tern can lay anywhere between 1–4 eggs.[6] The incubation period is approximately 24 days. Nests are usually formed very close to each other.[4] Terns aggressively defend their nests from predators, and other species such as the sand-colored nighthawk (Chordeiles rupestris) have been known to nest among tern colonies to take advantage of this anti-predator behavior.[7]


The yellow-billed tern forages during the day, mostly on small fish, shrimp, and insects.[2] It feeds by hovering and picking fish from surface waters.[3]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Sternula superciliaris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22694679A93462603. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22694679A93462603.en.
  2. ^ a b Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2018). Yellow-billed Tern (Sternula superciliaris). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive.
  3. ^ a b Renaudier, A. and Claessens, O., 2014. Field identification of Least and Yellow-billed Terns: experience from French Guiana. Neotropical Birding, 15(1), pp.22-32.
  4. ^ a b Zarza, Rebecca; Cintra, Renato; Anciäes, Marina (December 2013). "Distribution, Abundance and Habitat Selection by Breeding Yellow-billed Terns (Sternula superciliaris), Large-Billed Terns (Phaetusa simplex) and Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) in the Brazilian Amazon". Waterbirds. 36 (4): 470–481. doi:10.1675/063.036.0404.
  5. ^ Yellow-billed Tern (Sternula superciliaris), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:
  6. ^ Lesterhuis, Arne Jent; Clay, Robert P.; Smith, Paul (1 November 2017). "Status and distribution of the suborder Lari in Paraguay, including new country records". Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia. 25 (2): 128–136. ISSN 2178-7875.
  7. ^ Groom, Martha J. (June 1992). "Sand-Colored Nighthawks Parasitize the Antipredator Behavior of Three Nesting Bird Species". Ecology. 73 (3): 785–793. doi:10.2307/1940157.