Sooty Terns



Onychoprion fuscatus

This is the only tern that is black above and white below. The bill and feet are sooty black, and the adult is about 16” long. It lives up to 18 years, though some of as old as 32 have been reported.

The Sooty Tern feeds on small fish and squid, and will eat insects. They feed at night and catch flying fish in the air though more usually picking their food from the surface. When spending their winters offshore they are dependent on large fish such as the Tuna which bring smaller ones close to the stop of the sea where the diving terns can catch them. Fishermen look for the Sooty Terns at sea, knowing that they will be hovering over large predatory fish.

These terns make their nests of grass on upper beaches, laying one to three brown eggs with darker reddish brown spots. They are usually seen in spring and summer, and speak with a noisy repeated ‘keek’ or ‘cay-raw’ . When threatened they make a nasal rough moaning sound.

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