Caspian Tern

© Nigel J Dennis
Caspian Tern.


Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)




52 cm


The Caspian tern is the largest tern in South Africa. It has a white body, black cap on the head and a massive red bill. Immature birds are distinguishable from the adults by the brownish mottling on the back.

Caspian Tern Call

The call is a loud and raucous ‘krake-kraaah’ or ‘kraark’.

Caspian Tern Breeding

In the Cape of South Africa, the Caspian tern breed in December and January. The nest is a shallow scrape in sand, gravel, soil or pebbles and lined with scraps. The female lay two rough-textured greenish eggs marked with a few dark purple splotches. The eggs are incubated by both parents for about 22 - 24 days.

Caspian Tern Habitat

The Caspian tern can be found in pairs or small parties at coastal lagoons, estuaries and large inland water bodies, especially dams and saline pans.

Caspian Tern Status

The Caspian tern is of least concern and a common resident.

Where they are found

In South Africa the Caspian tern is common along the coast. It breeds in summer on some of the guano islands at Reniers Kraal, Bredasdorp and Strandfontein.