Common Tern



Common Tern in South America

Scientific name: Sterna hirundo

Family: Sternidae

Spanish name: Gaviotín golondrina

Migration: Nearctic migrant

Population estimate: 750,720 ([1])

Trend: Decreasing / Stable ([1])

Ramsar Criterion 6 (1% level): 7,507 ([1])

IUCN Conservation status: Not known to have unfavourable conservation status


Distribution and abundances

Four populations of S. hirundo hirundo restricted to the Americas. During the non-breeding season widely distributed along the coasts of South America, south to Tierra del Fuego, but with records restricted to specific sites. Highest abundances recorded along the coasts of Buenos Aires province (Argentina), Uruguay and southern Brazil. A resident and different population off-shore in Venezuela. Occasionally recorded inland, like in Laguna Mar Chiquita, Argentina (link to Abundances map). Sites reaching the 1% threshold (Ramsar Convention Criterion No. 6) are Lagoa do Peixe in Brazil and Punta Rasa and Bahía Samborombón in Argentina.


Migration and seasonality

Arrive at the Guianas after the breeding season in late October, before proceeding in southward migration along the Atlantic coast to the main non-breeding areas located in central and south of Brazil and in Argentina. Some birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway south to southern Peru and Chile. They use the same flyway during northward and southward migration. Many non-breeders remain in South America during the northern summer (link to Seasonality map).



Mainly in estuaries and up large rivers. Also recorded in marine beaches, sandflats and mudflats, tidal creeks, salt-marshes and harbours.


Habits and interactions with human activities

Besides the association to harbours and fishing activities, in some coastal areas overlaps with humans and tourism, like in Punta Rasa, in Argentina.



Canevari, M., P. Canevari, G.R. Carrizo, G. Harris, J. Rodríguez Mata & R. Straneck. 1991. Nueva Guía de las Aves Argentinas. Fundación Acindar. Santiago de Chile. Tome I: 200 pp. and Tome II: 182 pp.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds). 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Ed., Barcelona.

Olrog, C.C. 1968. Las aves sudamericanas: Una guía de campo. Tomo I. Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Fundación - Instituto Miguel Lillo, Tucumán, Argentina.

Rodríguez Mata, J., F. Erize & M. Rumboll. 2006. Guía de Campo Collins – Aves de Sudamérica: No Passeriformes. Harper Collins Ltd.

Wetlands International. 2006. Waterbird Population Estimates – Fourth Edition. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.




Authors: Daniel E. Blanco, Román Baigún & Bernabé López-Lanús

Data compiler: Pablo F. Petracci

Photographer: Roberto Güller

Recommended citation: Blanco D.E., R. Baigún & B. López-Lanús. 2008. Common Tern in South America factsheet. Wetlands International for the Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance / WCS / USAID.

([1]) Considering together the four different populations identified for the Neotropics.



Click on the link to download the factsheet in pdf format: Common Tern



Click on the map to enlarge