210 Common Tern
(Sterna hirundo)


34-37cm. The Common Tern is very similar to Arctic Tern (in Hungary Arctic Tern is very rare), but, with practice, separation nearly always possible . Apart from being slightly larger, different structure when perched useful: longer bill and head, and longer legs. Different structure also in flight: longer neck/head and slightly broader wings, which appear to be more or less central on body. Hovers, and dives directly for fish. - Adult summer: Bill orange-red with black tip, underparts pale grey, usually without obvious contrast with white cheek; short tail-streamers not extending beyond wing-tip; outer 4-6 primaries darker than rest, forming dark wedge on upperwing. Adult winter: White forehead and underparts, dark carpal bar, and all-black bill.


The Common Tern breeds in small numbers in Hungary at alkali lakes, fishponds, reservoirs and standing waters of gravel pits with a stable population, predominantly in the Great Plain, Little Plain, Mezőföld and in the vicinity of Lake Balaton. Its largest colonies can be found at Lake Fehér near Szeged, fishponds of the Kis-Sárrét, Kiskunság and Kis-Balaton. Is on spring passage mid-April and mid-May, autumn migration takes place from mid-July to early September.

210 Common Tern pic

© Graphics by Szabolcs Kókay

Source: 1) Lovászi Péter (editor): Javasolt különleges madárvédelmi területek Magyarországon, Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2002; 2) BirdLife International:IUCN Red List for birds. Species factsheet; 3) Králl Attila, Nagy Károly: Fontos Madárélőhelyek Magyarországon (Területek, kritériumok és minősítő fajok) MME Monitoring Központ, 2007; 4) Szabolcs Kókay bird illustrations; 5) www.hungarianbirdwatching.com bird descriptions and checklists, 2004-2012; 6) Lars Svensson et al.: Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe 2nd Edition, Harper Collins, 2010; 7) MME Nomenclator Bizottság: Nomenclator avium Hungariae. An annotated list of the birds of Hungary. Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2008