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Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

White-winged tern

Thai: นกนางนวลแกลบดำปีกขาว, nok naang-nuan klaep dam peek khao

Binomial name: Chlidonias leucopterus, Coenraad Jacob Temminck, 1815

The white-winged tern, or white-winged black tern (Chlidonias leucopterus or Chlidonias leucoptera), is a small tern generally found in or near bodies of fresh water across from Southeastern Europe east to Australia.

The name 'white-winged tern' is the standard in most English-speaking countries; in Britain, this name is also the one used by the formal ornithological recording authorities, but the older alternative 'white-winged black tern' is still frequent in popular use.

Description

Adult birds in summer have short red legs and a short black bill (small and stubby, meausuring 22–25 mm from the feathers, decidedly shorter than the head), a black neck (often with a pale gray back) and belly, very dark grey back, with a white rump and light grey (almost white) tail, which often looks 'square' in juveniles. The face is tinged yellowish. The wings, as the name implies, are mainly white. The inner wing is grayish with brown-tipped coverts. In non-breeding plumage, most of the black is replaced by white or pale grey, though a few blackish feathers may be retained, admixed with white underparts. A good deal of black shows in the underwing-coverts. The head is black, with a white forehead. The crown is blackish-brown, flecked with white, and the hindcrown is blackish with a certain amount of white flecking. These white markings are pronounced in the winter adult. There is a dark triangular patch forward of the eye. The collar is fairly broad and white. In juveniles and moulting adults, the rump is pale gray, becoming grey in both phases late in the year. The clear white collar and rump isolate the mantle as a dark brown 'saddle'. The mantle feathers have narrow paler brown tips, as have the tertials and scapulars.

Hybridisation with black tern

Hybridisation between this species and black tern has been recorded from Sweden and the Netherlands. Two juvenile birds at Chew Valley Lake, England, in September 1978 and September 1981, were also believed to be hybrids; they showed mixed characters of the two species, specifically a combination of a dark mantle (a feature of white-winged black) with dark patches on the breast-side (a feature of black tern, not shown by white-winged black).

Distribution and habitat

Their breeding habitat is freshwater marshes across from southeast Europe to central Asia. They usually nest either on floating vegetation in a marsh or on the ground very close to water, laying 2-4 eggs in a nest built of small reed stems and other vegetation. In winter, they migrate to Africa, southern Asia and Australia. It is a scarce vagrant in North America, mainly on the Atlantic coast, but a few records on the Pacific coast and inland in the Great Lakes area.

Behaviour

Like the other "marsh" terns (Chlidonias), and unlike the "white" (Sterna) terns, these birds do not dive for fish, but fly slowly over the water to surface-pick items on the surface and catch insects in flight. They mainly eat insects and small fish. In flight, the build appears thick-set. The wing-beats are shallow and leisurely.

The white-winged tern is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

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Videos of White-winged tern

  • White-winged tern

    White-winged tern

  • White-winged tern

    White-winged tern

Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Charadriiformes
Family
Sternidae
Genus
Chlidonias
Species
Chlidonias leucopterus

Common names

  • English:
    • White-winged black tern
    • White-winged tern
  • French: Guifette leucoptère
  • Thai: นกนางนวลแกลบดำปีกขาว, nok naang-nuan klaep dam peek khao

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of White-winged tern, Chlidonias leucopterus in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ban Laem District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Phai District, Khon Kaen
  • Bang Pakong District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Phra Non-hunting Area
  • Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  • Bangkok Province
  • Bueng Boraped Non-hunting Area
  • Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
  • Hat Yai District, Songkhla
  • Kamphaeng Saen District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Khura Buri District, Phang Nga
  • Klaeng District, Rayong
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Mu Ko Similan National Park
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon
  • Mueang Samut Songkhram District, Samut Songkhram
  • Mueang Suphanburi District, Suphan Buri
  • Nong Han Lake
  • Nong Thung Thong Non-hunting Area
  • Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Pak Phli District, Nakhon Nayok
  • Pak Thale
  • Samut Prakan Province
  • Sathing Phra District, Songkhla
  • Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
  • Thale Noi Non-hunting Area

Range map of Chlidonias leucopterus in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits and Parinya Pawangkhanant for their help with many range data.

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