Falklands Conservation South American Tern
South American Tern


Environmental Research Unit, PO Box 434, Stanley, Falkland Islands

South American Tern

Sterna hirundinacea
Local Name: Split-tailed / Swallow-tailed Gull
Breeding Range: Falklands & South America
Length: 42cm.
Falklands Population: ~10,000 breeding pairs
World Population: unknown

The South American Tern is seen around most Falkland coasts, but it breeds on remote coastal plains where human disturbance is minimal, often in association with gulls. Nests are closely packed together in colonies of several hundred, each nest being a simple hollow, sometimes lined with vegetation. Eggs are laid during November and December. Breeding birds will attack people who approach the nest site, but often abandon their nests following such disturbance. The young fledge by February, and adults and juveniles migrate northwards up the coast of South America between April and September. South American Terns feed on marine crustaceans and small fish, which they take from the surface water by diving down and plunging into the water, wings swept back like a dart. Sexes are similar in appearance.


Web page created by Dr Mike Bingham