Sterna Forsteri – Forster’s Tern

Sterna Forsteri - Forster's Tern found migrating in the US

The Forster’s tern (Sterna forsteri) is a tern species belonging to the Laridae family. Sterna is derived from the Old English words “stearn” and “tern,” whereas forsteri is named after naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster.

Quick Overview: Sterna Forsteri – Forster’s Tern
Body size: Around 11 in (28 cm) and a weight of 85 g (3 oz)
Main colors: Gray, Black, White
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: March, April, May, September, October, November
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Forster’s Tern Description

Forster’s terns are medium-sized species of tern. They are a delicate gray color with a black head and a white back and wings.

Sterna Forsteri - Forster's Tern found migrating in the US
Sterna Forsteri – Forster’s Tern. Photo by: Robert Nunnally


These birds have a length of 11 in (28 cm) and a weight of 85 g (3 oz). Their wings could range from 16 in (41 cm).


Fish, insects, and other aquatic life are all examples of little aquatic life. At all seasons, the diet is primarily fish, but during the summer on marshes, it may consume a variety of insects. Additionally, it feeds on small crustaceans and frogs.


Marshes, estuaries, islands, salt marshes, and marshy areas surrounding lakes and streams are the primary habitats.


Diurnal and migratory, Forster’s terns. They are graceful fliers capable of cruising at speeds of up to 16 kilometers per hour. The Forster’s tern is a colonial species. During the breeding season, they do not defend a territory, simply the nest.

Sterna Forsteri Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: laridae
  • Genus: Sterna
  • Species: Sterna forsteri

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds are during the Spring season (March-May) and during the Autumn season (September – November).

Distribution of the Forster’s Tern in the USA

Breeds along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as in the interiors of British Columbia and California, and extends eastward to the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states. Winters along the beaches between California and Virginia.

The Forster’s Tern can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Sterna Forsteri – Forster’s Tern

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