Damara Tern

© Shem Compion


Damara tern (Sterna balaenarum)




23 cm

Damara Tern Description

The adult Damara tern is a small tern with a rather pale grey back. It differs from the little tern with the slightly de-curved bill and dumpier shape. In flight it appears almost white. Non-breeding birds is white on the forehead and crown. The all-black cap is diagnostic of the breeding plumage.
The immature tern has brownish markings on the wing-coverts.

Damara Tern Call

The call is a repeated high pitched ‘tsit-tit’ and also a ‘tit-tit’.

Damara Tern Diet

The Damara tern eats mainly small fish which are caught in repeated plunge dives from a height of 3 - 8m.

Damara Tern Breeding

The Damara tern breeds near Table Bay in South Africa, beyond Rocky Point right up to the Cunene River and also the Namibian coast. The nest is a plain scrape in dune-slacks and gravel plains 1 - 5 km from the sea. One or two tern-like eggs are laid.


The Damara tern is found in small groups on the Atlantic coast. It feeds offshore and prefers sheltered bays and estuaries.


Uncommon resident in South Africa and near threatened.

Damara Tern Distribution

In South Africa the Damara tern is confined to the coastline along the Western and Northern Cape. In July it migrates from South Africa to Namibia.