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Conservation status: Amber

These delightful silvery-grey and white birds have long tails which have earned them the nickname 'sea-swallow'. They have a buoyant, graceful flight and frequently hover over water before plunging down for a fish. They are often noisy in company and breed in colonies.

Illustrations

Overview

Latin name

Sterna hirundo

Family

Terns (Sternidae)

Where to see them

Breeds along coasts with shingle beaches and rocky islands, on rivers with shingle bars, and at inland gravel pits and reservoirs, feeding along rivers and over freshwater. Migrating birds can be seen offshore in autumn.

When to see them

Throughout the summer - they arrive in April and leave in August and September. They are most obvious when feeding young as they will fly some distance for food, returning to the nest site with a fish.

What they eat

Fish

Population

EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
-12,000 pairs--

Distribution

Key

In the UK
Most of the UK, but scarce in south-west.

Audio

Ross Ahmed, Xeno-canto

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