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Gelochelidon nilotica

Gelochelidon nilotica (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Subsectio: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Euornithes
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Ornithurae
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Ordo: Charadriiformes
Subordo: Lari

Familia: Laridae
Subfamilia: Sterninae
Genus: Gelochelidon
Species: Gelochelidon nilotica
Subspecies: G. n. affinis – G. n. aranea – G. n. gronvoldi – G. n. nilotica – G. n. vanrossemi

Gelochelidon nilotica (Gmelin, 1789)

Sterna nilotica (protonym)


Systema Naturae 1 (2): 606.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Oostelike Seeswael
العربية: الخرشنة نورسية المنقار
asturianu: Chirri Picuprietu
azərbaycanca: Qağayıbaş susüpürən
башҡортса: Керелдәк сарлаҡ
български: Дебелоклюна рибарка
বাংলা: কালাঠোঁট পানচিল
brezhoneg: Skrav beg tev
català: Curroc
čeština: Rybák černozobý
Cymraeg: Morwennol ylfinbraff
dansk: Sandterne
Deutsch: Lachseeschwalbe
ދިވެހިބަސް: Kanifulhu Dhooni
Ελληνικά: Γελογλάρονο
English: Gull-billed Tern
Esperanto: Mevbeka sterno
español: Pagaza piconegra
eesti: Naerutiir
euskara: Txenada mokobeltz
suomi: Hietatiira
føroyskt: Sandterna
français: Sterne hansel
Gaeilge: Geabhróg Ghobdhubh
galego: Carrán de bico curto
Avañe'ẽ: Atî
עברית: שחפית עבת מקור
हिन्दी: Kadal kuruvi
hrvatski: Debelokljuna Cigra
Kreyòl ayisyen: Fou bèk nwa
magyar: Kacagócsér
հայերեն: Ջրածիծառ որորակտուց
Bahasa Indonesia: Burung Dara-laut Paruh Lebar
íslenska: Sandþerna
italiano: Sterna zampenere
日本語: ハシブトアジサシ
қазақша: Қаратұмсық қарқылдақ
한국어: 큰부리제비갈매기
Lëtzebuergesch: Laachséischmuewel
lietuvių: Kirasnapė žuvėdra
македонски: Галебоклуна морска рибарка
മലയാളം: പാത്തക്കൊക്കന്‍ ആള
монгол: Бахим амуулай - ᠪᠠᠬᠢᠮ ᠠᠮᠣᠯᠠᠢ
Bahasa Melayu: Burung Camar Tiram
Malti: Ċirlewwa Geddumha Oħxon
Nederlands: Lachstern
norsk: Sandterne
polski: Rybitwa krótkodzioba
پنجابی: گل دی چنج آلی ٹرن
português do Brasil: Trinta-réis-de-bico-preto
português: Gaivina-de-bico-preto
rumantsch: Pestgarel chomma naira
română: Pescăriță râzătoare
русский: Чайконосая крачка
slovenčina: Rybárka krátkozobá
slovenščina: Crnonoga cigra
shqip: Dallëndyshe deti këmbëzezë
српски / srpski: debelokljuna cigra - Дебелоклјуна чигра
svenska: Sandtärna
Kiswahili: Shakwe Domo-nene
தமிழ்: Parutha Alagu Aala
ไทย: นกนางนวลแกลบปากหนา
Türkçe: Gülen sumru
українська: Крячок чорнодзьобий
Tiếng Việt: Chim Nhàn chân đen
中文: 鸥嘴噪鸥

The gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), formerly Sterna nilotica,[2] is a tern in the family Laridae. The genus name is from Ancient Greek gelao, "to laugh", and khelidon, "swallow". The specific niloticus is from Latin and means of the Nile.[3] The Australian gull-billed tern was previously considered a subspecies.

Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

This is a fairly large and powerful tern, similar in size and general appearance to a Sandwich tern, but the short thick gull-like bill, broad wings, long legs and robust body are distinctive. The summer adult has grey upperparts, white underparts, a black cap, strong black bill and black legs. The call is a characteristic ker-wik. It is 33–42 cm (13–17 in) in length and 76–91 cm (30–36 in) in wingspan.[4][5] Body mass ranges from 150–292 g (5.3–10.3 oz).[6]

In winter, the cap is lost, and there is a dark patch through the eye like a Forster's tern or a Mediterranean gull. Juvenile gull-billed terns have a fainter mask, but otherwise look much like winter adults.

Juvenile Sandwich terns have a short bill, and are frequently mistaken for gull-billed tern where the latter species is uncommon, such as North Sea coasts.

There are five listed subspecies of the gull-billed tern:[7]

G. n. nilotica – (Gmelin, 1789): nominate, found in Europe, North Africa through the Middle East & south-central Asia to western China & Thailand
G. n. affinis – (Horsfield, 1821): found in Transbaikalia to Manchuria, Japan, south and east China through southeast Asia to the Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi & Sumatra
G. n. aranea – (Wilson, 1814): found in eastern & southern United States, Greater Antilles
G. n. vanrossemi – Bancroft, 1929: found from southern California to northwestern Mexico
G. n. gronvoldi – Mathews, 1912: found from French Guiana to northeastern Argentina


It breeds in warmer parts of the world in southern Europe, temperate and eastern Asia, both coasts of North America, eastern South America. This bird has a number of geographical races, differing mainly in size and minor plumage details.

All forms show a post-breeding dispersal, but the northern breeders are most migratory, wintering south to Africa, the Caribbean and northern South America, southern Asia and New Zealand.

The gull-billed tern is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Life history

This species breeds in colonies on lakes, marshes and coasts. It nests in a ground scrape and lays two to five eggs. While widely distributed in freshwater areas in Eurasia, it is associated almost solely with saltwater, coastal areas in North America.[4]

This is a somewhat atypical tern, in appearance like a Sterna tern, but with feeding habits more like the Chlidonias marsh terns, black tern and white-winged tern. It used to be grouped in the genus Sterna but is now placed on its own in the genus Gelochelidon.

The gull-billed tern does not normally plunge dive for fish like the other white terns, and has a broader diet than most other terns. It largely feeds on insects taken in flight, and also often hunts over wet fields and even in brushy areas, to take amphibians and small mammals.[4] It is also an opportunistic feeder, and has been observed to pick up and feed on dead dragonflies from the road.[8]


BirdLife International (2019). "Gelochelidon nilotica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T62026481A153842241. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T62026481A153842241.en. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
Bridge, E.S.; Jones, A.W.; Baker, A.J. (2005). "A phylogenetic framework for the terns (Sternini) inferred from mtDNA sequences: implications for taxonomy and plumage evolution". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 35 (2): 459–469. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.12.010. PMID 15804415.
Jobling, J. A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 171, 272. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
"Gull-billed Tern". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
"Gull billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)". Planet of Birds. 2011. Archived from the original on 2019-06-23. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
Dunning, John B. Jr., ed. (1992). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Noddies, gulls, terns, auks". World Bird List Version 9.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
Sivakumar, S. (2004). "Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica (Gmelin, 1789) feeding on insect road kills" (PDF). Newsletter for Ornithologists. 1 (1–2): 18–19.

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