Large-billed Tern (Phaetusa simplex)

Large-billed Tern

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Laridae | [latin] Phaetusa simplex | [UK] Large-billed Tern | [FR] Sterne a gros bec | [DE] Grossschnabel-Seeschwalbe | [ES] Charran Picudo | [NL] Grootsnavelstern


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Larosterna simplex
Phaetusa simplex SA widespread
Phaetusa simplex chloropoda sc and se
Phaetusa simplex simplex n, c and e

Physical charateristics

Has a dark grey mantle and short dark grey tail with a black cap, white breast, belly, chin, cheeks, and throat. Black primaries to the bend of the wing are striking in flight, white secondaries. Distinctive large yellow bill.

Listen to the sound of Large-billed Tern

[audio: Tern.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 86 cm wingspan max.: 91 cm
size min.: 36 cm size max.: 38 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 55 days fledging max.: 30 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


South America : widespread


Live near large rivers and estuaries in the Caribbean; river and lake beaches in South America; sometimes inland up to 3100 m elevation. When not breeding, may be found near estuaries and coastlines.


Large-billed terns are Monogamous and nest colonial. This species often nests in mixed colonies with other terns and skimmers. No nest material is used, eggs are hidden in grasses and reeds. 2 pale grey to olive-brown eggs with brown blotches are laid. Incubation takes 27-30 days and is cared for by both sexes. The young are fed by both sexes, the chicks leave the nest within a day and have first flight at 55-65 days. One brood per year.

Feeding habits

Eats fish and aquatic invertebrates; catches insects in flight; plunges into water. Frequents fresh water rivers and larger lakes, also along sea coasts.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Large-billed Tern status Least Concern


Winters on rivers and coast. Common throughout year on Guyana coast, with lower numbers May-Aug when breeding. Accidental in West Indies, Bermuda Panama, and North America, also found on Trinidad.

Distribution map

Large-billed Tern distribution range map

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