Black Bellied Tern


Sterna acuticauda

Common Names:

Black bellied tern, Kali Taheri


Black Bellied Tern

Kingdom :   Animalia
Phylum :
Class :
Order :   Charadriiformes
Family :   Laridae
Genus :
Species :

Conservation Status:

IUCN :   Endangered
  Not listed
IW(P)A :   Not listed
   Not listed


The Black-bellied Tern is found along the major river systems of India, usually breeding on sand spits or a sandy island. An entirely inland species, it is not found on the coast

Distribution of the Black-bellied Tern

Distribution of the Black Bellied Tern (

Characteristics, Habitat and Behaviour:

The Black-Bellied tern grows to a length of 32 to 35 cm (13 to 14 inches). Breeding adults have an orange bill, black cap and nape, dark grey breast and a blackish belly and vent. Non-breeding birds show a whitish belly and lack tail streamers and have an orange bill with a dark tip. Its typical habitat consists of lowland rivers and marshes, occasionally smaller pools and ditches, at altitudes of up to 730 m (2,400 ft).

In spite of having long wings, its flight is slow and involves a lot of flapping. It skims over the surface of water and ground to pick up insects and plunges at an angle into the water to feed on crustaceans, tadpoles and fish. Breeding takes place from February to April. It does not nest colonially but may nest with other birds such as river terns (Sterna aurantia), pratincoles (Glareola spp.) and Indian skimmers (Rynchops albicollis) (Gochfeld et al., 2015). It emits a clear piping "peuo".

Major Threats:

  • Destruction of breeding habitat, as the islands and sand spits in larger rivers are being increasingly cultivated.
  • Increased disturbance and pollution from industry and agriculture.
  • Predation by dogs, cats and corvids and collection of eggs for food.
  • Over-harvesting of wetland products, such as water extraction, sand and gravel extraction for development and fishing.
  • Flooding of nests, often caused by dams.


Gochfeld, M., Burger, J., & de Juana, E. (2015). "Black-bellied Tern (Sterna acuticauda)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive . Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Retrieved 16 December 2015.