Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern- Chlidonias hybrida


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Laridae
  • Genre: Chlidonias
  • Species: Chlidonias hybrida

Identification characters

Body length about 25 cm, grey plumage, blackish crown, white cheek.


The Whiskered Tern is found in the southern and eastern parts of the European continent and winters in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The European population is relatively small and is between 66,300 and 108,000 breeding pairs. In Romania, the breeding population is between 10,000 and 20,000 pairs, and between 30,000 and 100,000 birds can be observed during passage.

Living environment and biology of the species

It is characteristic of freshwater wetlands, rich in vegetation. Feeds on small fish, adult insects and their larvae, crustaceans, snails and small frogs. It catches prey by sudden slides from about 5 m high. Glides on the spot, flapping its wings in pursuit of prey. Feeds up to 1-2 km from the breeding colony. Average life span is nine years, but can be up to 19 years. Reaches sexual maturity at the age of two. Arrives from wintering quarters in the second part of April and early May. It is a monogamous and territorial species. Forms monospecific colonies of up to 100 pairs, in which nests are located 1-5 m apart. The species’ preferred nesting habitats are marshes with isolated water meshes and vegetation grazed by cattle and horses.

The nest consists of plant debris and is laid on floating vegetation in areas where the water is shallow, less than 1 m. The female typically lays 2-3 eggs in the second part of May and the second part of June, with an average size of 37.7 and 28.6 mm. Incubation lasts around 18-20 days and is carried out by both partners. The chicks leave the nest a few days after hatching and are cared for by the adults. They become fledglings 21-25 days after hatching. In the first winter they have an intermediate plumage between juvenile and adult.

Threats and conservation measures

The species is threatened by habitat loss and alteration, pollution and poor water management. It is recommended to respect restrictions in riparian and coastal areas, maintain wetland vegetation at an ecologically optimal level, manage waste and sewage in habitats important to the species, maintain a minimum of 1.5 uncultivated strips between cultivated land and wetlands where the use of chemicals is prohibited. The use of selective and low-toxicity agrochemicals is encouraged and the use of treated seeds in the vicinity of wetlands should be avoided. Organic production is encouraged.

Management of water levels in reservoirs in accordance with the ecological needs of the species and the creation of artificial islands to increase breeding success in wetlands is recommended. An inventory of breeding, migration, feeding and aggregation areas important for the conservation of the species is needed. It is also useful to promote studies on the biology of the species.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 280.
    Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing, Bucharest, p. 86.
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