Black-Naped Tern

Black-Naped Tern

Sterna sumatrana

Conservation Status
Listed marine and migratory (CAMBA, JAMBA)

Species and status overview
Black-naped terns breed and roost on islands, and forage in the sea surrounding their colonies. This species is only occasionally found in inshore waters and on the coastal mainland. They nest in exposed, open sites typically just above the high water mark where debris collects. Black-naped Terns feed solely on fish by shallow plunging and taking prey from the surface of the water.

In Queensland, breeding is from August-September through to March, with some nesting in June-July.

Black-naped terns have been recorded locally

  • Cape Hillsborough
  • East Repulse Island
  • Edwin Rock
  • Henning Island
  • Grassy Island
  • Hook Island
  • Mackay Coast
  • Newry Islands
  • Olden Island

This marine tern is small and slender, (length 30–32 cm, weight 105 g) with a long and deeply forked tail. Adults are mostly white, with a pale-grey back, faint pinkish underparts, and a black band  which extends from the eye across the back of their heads. The bill, legs, and feet are black, and the eyes dark brown.

Black-naped Terns are sociable birds, and occur in groups ranging from a few, to a hundred birds, that often nest, roost and forage close to other species of terns.

Black-naped Terns often forage over schools of fish that have been forced to the surface by marine predators and they will steal food from other birds.

Conservation concerns
Because they nest on the ground, Black-naped terns are liable to destruction by storm tides, cyclonic weather, and associated flooding, and to predation by ground predators and silver gulls. Black-naped terns are highly sensitive to human disturbance when roosting and nesting and adults may leave  their nests and expose eggs to predation.

What can I do?

  • Avoid areas where Black-naped Terns are known to occur, particularly during breeding season
  • If approaching by small boats, remain 30 m offshore, ensure motor is idling and make minimal noise,
  • If approaching on foot maintain a minimum distance of 80m


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