Fun Caspian Tern Facts For Kids

Akinwalere Olaleye
Nov 14, 2022 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed
To know more about this bird, read these Caspian Tern facts.

The Caspian tern, Hydroprogne caspia as it is scientifically known, belongs to the Laridae family. The genus name is derived from the ancient Greek word 'hudros' meaning water and the Latin 'progne' meaning swallow.

The Caspian tern, Hydroprogne caspia, is found near coastlines of large bodies of water and islands with little vegetation habitat. They primarily feed on fish and sometimes also eat crayfish and insects.

The Caspian tern world distribution of populations is spread over all the continents except Antarctica. These birds arrive in the breeding grounds around late March to late May season and fish flight is used by males to attract females.

The courtship includes nesting together. The eggs are laid in the nests built and the young remain with parents for many days after hatching.

It is difficult for the young to catch a fish and thus, a young is dependent on the parents for food even during winter. The black-colored crown is there on the young for almost a year, unlike other birds or terns.

The habitat is similar to these birds when migrating. For an adult, the lifespan could be 26 years or more in the wild.

These birds are also known for their flight when catching prey. Caspians are also known for their calls and young tend to call from within the egg for food.

The calls tend to differ from other birds. These birds are very interesting so read on to learn about the Caspian tern bird.

You may also like our articles on least tern and western bluebird facts.

Caspian Tern Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Caspian tern?

Caspian terns are birds.

What class of animal does a Caspian tern belong to?

The Caspian tern belongs to class Aves of birds.

How many Caspian terns are there in the world?

The recent estimation states that there are around 50,000 pairs of Caspian terns in the world.

Where does a Caspian tern live?

The Caspian tern range is in almost all continents except Antarctica. Their breeding ground range tends to be by lakes or oceans such as the Great Lakes in North America.

What is a Caspian tern's habitat?

These birds are found in coastal habitats that include marshes, beaches, estuaries, and open habitats in islands on large bodies of water. They forage over and near water and build nest or nest on sandy, pebbly or muddy shores with little vegetation.

They nest on islands to avoid risks to predation to eggs and nestlings. They migrate and breed along with similar habitats.

Who do Caspian terns live with?

Caspian terns live alone as well as in groups. They also tend to migrate in groups and sometimes alone too. They are found in groups during the breeding season.

How long does a Caspian tern live?

While in general, mortality occurs within few days of hatching, adults have high chances of surviving and are known to live for 26 years or more in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

The terns arrive on breeding grounds around late March to late May. These tend to be by the coast, oceans, or lakes, namely the Great Lakes in the case of North American birds.

Caspian terns are monogamous and pairs stay together for the breeding season at least. Some pairs are also known to live together for many years but only some pairs are known to mate again in the same population.

Pairs get formed as soon as the birds arrive on the breeding ground.

Some pairs also form during the migration or the wintering range. Males hunt or catch fish and move or fly with it over a group of terns and other terns also join and then the male lands near a female and make bowing movements.

Females try to steal or beg for the fish and after the display is repeated several times, the male feeds the fish to the females and a bond is formed and copulation happens. This is known as 'fish flight'.

Courtship rituals include high flights, diving together with vocalizations, and sometimes, construction of nests.

They breed in late May and early June. One to three splotched eggs are laid and every two to three days eggs are laid but the incubation starts after the first egg is laid which is for 25-28 days.

Nesting or fledging takes place 37 days after hatching. Most birds do not breed until they are three years old.

What is their conservation status?

The status of these birds is Least Concern.

Caspian Tern Fun Facts

What do Caspian terns look like?

Caspian terns are known to have a large and bright or vibrant coral red bill and a full black cap on their head. Both males and females are similar.

The upper part of their body is grayish and their belly, breast, rump, and tail are white. The primary feathers are gray to black on the under part. The black cap is extended towards their eyes and back of the head.

Sometimes speckles are seen during the non-breeding season and in young ones. The tail is slightly notched or cut or marked. Their bill is deep red to orange in color, sometimes it has a gray mark on the tip.

The adult Caspian tern feet and legs are black. These species are comparatively larger than the other species.

How cute are they?

These birds are considered to be very cute because of their color and build.

How do they communicate?

Several kinds of vocalizations are used to communicate. Young start calling from within the egg for food. Calls are used to express alarm, tell that it is bringing a fish back to the nest, and beg. Calls are considered to be hoarse and sound like 'ra' or 'rau'. During courtship, a buzzing sound with wings is made.

Visual display and body movements are also used. Head up is used to display aggression along with ruffled feathers. Bowing movements are used to attract females for mating.

How big is a Caspian tern?

This species of terns is the largest tern species. They weigh around 1.4 lb (0.6 kg) and are 18.5-21 in (470-540 mm) long.

How fast can a Caspian tern fly?

While exact speed is unknown, these terns are known to fly quite fast.

How much does a Caspian tern weigh?

The weight of these birds is around 1.4 lb (0.6 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name for the male and female of the species.

What would you call a baby Caspian tern?

There is no specific name for a baby Caspian tern but they are sometimes referred to as chicks.

What do they eat?

Caspian terns primarily feed on fish but are also known to eat crayfish and insects occasionally. They forage by flying over shallow water usually along a shoreline.

They fly looking down for food and as soon as they locate prey, it hovers down and then sharply dive. Most times it eats the prey right after capturing it, sometimes it takes the fish back to the nest.

They may also wash the fish before giving it to the young and also wash its bill in the water. The fish prey or the dominant fish prey varies according to the regions but the prey includes shinier perch, anchovies, rock bass, juvenile salmon, and alewife.

Are they aggressive?

These terns tend to be aggressive when defending their territories or breeding colonies. They tend to chase predatory birds and are sometimes known to attack people who come too close.

Would they make a good pet?

These birds are migratory and thus, it is rare or almost impossible to keep these terns as pets.

Did you know...

Unlike other species, these Caspian terns species retain their black cap during winter or as it is also called non-breeding plumage.

Young are fed a whole fish since starting to eat and they swallow it headfirst.

The largest breeding colony in North America is in Oregon. An increasing number of these terns or these species caused problems to the young salmon releases. Efforts are made to shift the colony to another place to sort the fish stocking problem.

Young Caspians stay with their parents for a long time and are also fed by them.

A group of these terns is called ternery or a 'U' of terns.

These birds got their name because early ornithologists related their name to the Caspian sea, where the species is quite commonly found.

Caspian terns are known to be awkward or clumsy on grounds and tend to waddle or walk with short steps on the ground.

These birds are active all day but most of the foraging happens early morning.

Around 62% of the mortality among these populations happens within a few months of hatching.

When debating common tern vs Caspian tern, common terns are half the size of the Caspian terns and the common terns have a more noticeable black tip and red legs.

Royal tern vs Caspian tern

To identify Caspian tern vs royal tern, there are certain differences between the species to look out for.

Caspian terns have a heavier bill with a dusky tip whereas the royal terns have a thinner and orange-colored bill without a dusky tip.

Royal terns are thin and slim and long-winged while Caspian tern birds are bulky and broader-winged. Royals tend to be in or inhabit beaches and offshore, while Caspians are more likely to be on beaches or inland.

Caspian vs royal tern birds have the black crown all year even during winter while the royal terns do not have the black crown most of the year.

It is believed that the Caspian tern call and the call of a Royal tern are slightly different too.

What time of year is the Caspian tern in Hawaii?

During winters the Caspian terns are in Hawaii as they tend to migrate there.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including kestrel birds, or blue grosbeak.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our caspian tern coloring pages.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

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Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed

Bachelor of Law

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Abdulqudus MojeedBachelor of Law

A versatile professional with a passion for creative writing and technology. Abdulqudus is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Law from the University of Lagos and has experience as a tutor, intern assistant, and volunteer. He possesses strong organizational skills and is a detail-oriented person.

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