Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine as Chlidonias leucopterus
Listed migratory - CAMBA as Chlidonias leucoptera, JAMBA as Chlidonias leucopterus, ROKAMBA as Chlidonias leucoptera
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument] as Chlidonias leucoptera.
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument] as Chlidonias leucopterus.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Listed Migratory Species - Approval of an International Agreement (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007h) [Legislative Instrument] as Chlidonias leucopterus.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Update of the List of Migratory Species (12/03/2009) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009q) [Legislative Instrument] as Chlidonias leucopterus.
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Least Concern (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Near Threatened (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Chlidonias leucopterus [59598]
Family Laridae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Temminck,1815)
Infraspecies author  
Other names Chlidonias leucoptera [828]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

International: The West Eurasian and African populations of the White-winged Tern are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

Globally, it is listed as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List of threatened species (BirdLife International 2007e).

Listed under the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA).

Listed under the China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA).

Listed under the Republic of Korea-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (ROKAMBA).

Scientific Name: Chlidonias leucopterus

Common Name: White-winged Black Tern.

Other English names: White-winged or whitewinged Tern (AOU 1998; Avibase 2008; Gill & Wright 2006, 2008; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996).
The White-winged Black Tern is a conventionally accepted species (Christidis & Boles 2008; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996).

The White-winged Black Tern is monotypic. It is a small (total length 20–23 cm; mean adult weight in Australia 65.5 g [Higgins & Davies 1996]), fairly slender and compact marsh tern, with fairly short wings and tail, the latter only slightly forked.

In breeding plumage adults are strongly black and white, with the head, neck, breast and belly velvety black, grading to dull black on the saddle and sharply demarcated from a white rump and tail above, and from white vent and undertail-coverts on the underbody. The pattern of the upperwing is diagnostic: largely pale grey with a broad white leading edge to the innerwing, dusky grey wedge on the outer primaries and, usually, a dusky grey secondary bar. The underwing is pale grey with contrastingly black coverts. The bill is black to dark red, with red at the base. The legs and feet are red, and the eyes dark brown. Adult breeding females are duller black than breeding males, with a greyish tone to body (Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Olsen & Larsson 1995).

In adult non-breeding plumage, the head and neck are white with a neat black and white-streaked cap, a black notch or band behind the eye and over the ear-coverts, and a small black patch in front of the eye. The rest of the upperparts and tail are grey with a white rump and white sides to the tail, and there are a dusky secondary bar and dusky grey wedge on the outer primaries on the upperwing. The underparts are white with a diffuse dusky trailing edge to the underwing and there is often a black line along the tips of the greater underwing-coverts. The bill is black, and the legs and feet are dark red (Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Olsen & Larsson 1995).

Juveniles are like non-breeding adults but are distinguished by a wholly black cap, streaked with white only at the border with the white forehead, and by a brownish-black saddle, diffusely scaled paler, contrasting with a largely pale-grey upperwing. The rump is white and uppertail-coverts and tail are pale grey, as in non-breeding adults. The upperwing is more uniformly grey than in the adult, marked with a dusky cubital bar, secondary bar and trailing edge to the primaries. Below, the underbody is white. The bill is black-brown with a paler, sometimes reddish, base, and the legs and feet vary from red to reddish brown or brownish orange (Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Olsen & Larsson 1995).

White-winged Black Terns are gregarious, normally foraging and roosting in small flocks, though may occur in congregations of hundreds or several thousands at preferred sites; where irregularly recorded, they are often seen singly, or in twos or threes. In Australia, they often gather in large flocks at staging sites before northern migration in April-May, such as at Alva Beach, Queensland, and at North Perron Island, Northern Territory. White-winged Black Terns are often associate with other terns, especially Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybrida) (Chatto 2006; Coates & Bishop 1997; Higgins & Davies 1996).

The species is a non-breeding migrant to Australia, where it is widespread and common along south-western, northern and central-eastern coasts, with only scattered records of small numbers along the coasts elsewhere in southern Australia (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Chatto 2006; Higgins & Davies 1996; Johnstone & Storr 1998).

In Western Australia, the species is widespread on the southern west coast, mainly from Ballingup and the estuary of Vasse River north to Mongers Lake, and also on coasts of the Pilbara region and Kimberley Division, with occasional records farther inland, mainly along major river systems, such as the Ord. The species only rarely occurs in the Gascoyne Region of the central-western coast, and is occasionally recorded along the southern coast, for example a single bird was recorded at Eyre Bird Observatory in October 1980 (Johnstone & Storr 1998).

In the Northern Territory, White-winged Black Terns are a widespread annual visitor to coastal areas from Joseph Bonaparte Gulf east through the Top End to Groote Eylandt and the Sir Edward Pellew Group and widespread elsewhere in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Chatto 2006).

In Queensland, the species is widespread through the Gulf of Carpentaria and along western Cape York Peninsula, but most records are from the south-east. On the eastern Queensland coast, it is recorded at scattered sites, particularly around Cairns, Innisfail and adjacent hinterlands. It has been recorded once in south-western Queensland (Atherton et al. 1985; Chan & Dening 2007).

In NSW, the species is widespread east of the Great Divide, mainly south to about Wollongong, but with scattered records further south along the coast and on inland wetlands west of the Great Divide, for example Lake Cowal, Narran Lake and as far west as the Menindee Lakes (Morris 1971).

In Victoria, the species is regularly recorded in Port Phillip Bay, in Western Districts and in the mid-Murray Valley, with isolated records elsewhere, including Gippsland.

The species is a regular visitor in small numbers (usually 1–3 birds) to Tasmania, and there are scattered records, usually of singles or twos, in South Australia (for example 17 records between December 1964 and February 1981) (de Rebeira & de Rebeira undated).

Elsewhere in Australian territory, the species is a rare visitor to Lord Howe, Norfolk and Cocos-Keeling Islands (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Hermes et al. 1986; Higgins & Davies 1996; McAllan et al. 2004; Moore 1985; Serventy et al. 1971; Stokes et al. 1984).

There is no estimate of the extent of occurrence of this species in Australia. The species has a large worldwide range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 1 000 000–10 000 000 km² (BirdLife International 2007e). The source of this estimate is not known, and there are no available data to indicate past declines or future changes.

The estimated area of occupancy of White-winged Black Terns in Australia is 23 200 km².

Globally, the White-winged Black Tern is widespread in both breeding and non-breeding periods.

There are no known captive populations of this species and the species has not been reintroduced into the wild in Australia or elsewhere.

White-winged Black Terns have a widespread breeding distribution in Eurasia, though some breeding populations appear isolated. However, overall the distribution does not appear to be fragmented. The species has a large non-breeding range.

The species has a wide breeding range in Eurasia, from central Europe through Russia to Eastern China. Breeding is recorded from north-western Italy and central and Eastern Europe, east through Siberia, Transbaikalia and northern Mongolia to Amurland and Sakhalin, mainly between 35° N and 55° N (Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996). Breeding is normally confined to the Northern Hemisphere but the species has, unusually, bred in New Zealand (Higgins & Davies 1996; Pierce 1974). The species is migratory, spending the boreal winter in Africa, mostly south of the Sahara Desert and including Madagascar; in southern and south-eastern Asia, including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, east to Vietnam and the southern Malay Peninsula; and through Indonesia to New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Most of the non-breeding population is found in Africa and Australia. The species is mainly a passage migrant through Europe, Korea and Japan, the Greater Sundas, Philippines and New Guinea. The species is recorded as accidental or vagrant to many regions, such as Alaska and elsewhere in the United States, and the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau (Ali & Ripley 1969; AOU 1998; Coates 1985; Coates & Bishop 1997; Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Urban et al. 1986; White & Bruce 1986).
The species has a large global population, estimated to be 2 500 000–4 500 000 individuals (BirdLife International 2007e; Wetlands International 2006). The species is considered fairly common to very common in parts of eastern Europe and central and eastern Asia but very scarce in central Europe (Gochfeld & Burger 1996).

The western and eastern breeding populations of the White-winged Black Tern are disjunct, but are both large. Some breeding populations are small and fragmented, and considered very scarce in central Europe, breeding only rarely or sporadically (Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996).

Global populations of this species appear to be stable (Wetlands International 2006), and though trends have not been quantified, the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in 10 years or three generations). Globally, the species is listed as Least Concern (BirdLife International 2007e).

The proportion of the global population of White-winged Black Terns that occur in Australia is not known (Higgins & Davies 1996). Whereas it has been claimed that a large proportion winters in Australia (Coates & Bishop 1997), numbers do not equate to the large numbers reported in Africa (Wetlands International 2006).

White-winged Black Terns, along with other migrant and resident species of terns, were the target of a three-year study of terns on the Caloundra sandbanks in south-eastern Queensland (Chan & Dening 2007); and of a 16–month survey at the Noosa sandbanks 50 km north of Caloundra (Chan et al. 2008), with counts continuing to the present (J. Dening 2008, pers. comm.). The species has also been widely recorded during surveys of wetlands in Australia, for example in surveys of wetlands of the Top End of the Northern Territory (Chatto 2006); and, in south-western Australia, recorded on eight of 197 wetlands surveyed between 1981 and 1985 (Jaensch et al. 1988).

Numbers at sites in Australia can vary greatly from year to year but there is no knowledge of differential annual use of sites within Australia that may explain such differences. For example, at Caloundra, in south-eastern Queensland, the median count (with maximum annual counts in parentheses) over each of three years were 160 (5293), 356 (17 293) and 1313 (13 138) birds (Chan & Dening 2007). Greatest numbers appear to occur in south-eastern Queensland (Chan & Dening 2007; Chan et al. 2008) and in northern Australia, where surveys can be difficult in the wet season (Chatto 2006).

There is no information on generation length of this species.

The species does not breed in Australia but this country appears to be an important wintering destination. Wetlands of northern Australia appear to be important non-breeding areas, with large numbers sometimes recorded; for example at least 15 000 birds on the Perron Islands in mid-March 1992; 15 000 birds at Port Hedland, Western Australia in March-April 1982; 6000 on a 15 km stretch of Eighty Mile Beach, Western Australia; approximately 1200 at Darwin Sewage Farm, Northern Territory, in December 1985; at least 3000 at Cromarty Wetlands, near Giru, Queensland; and approximately 2600 at Armstrong Plain, near Normanton, north-western Queensland, in April 1985. South-eastern Queensland is also important, with >17,000 birds at Caloundra in 2001–02 (Chan & Dening 2007; Chan et al. 2008; Chatto 2006; Harrison 1997; Higgins & Davies 1996; Jaensch 1989b; Niland 1986). Usually the species occurs in smaller numbers (general maxima of several hundreds) in southern Australia (Higgins & Davies 1996).
White-winged Black Terns have apparently hybridized with the congeneric Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) and Whiskered Terns (Gochfeld & Burger 1996; McCarthy 2006).

Given the widespread distribution around Australia, the species is recorded in many areas designated as reserves, though none appears to be specifically managed for this species. For example, the species is widespread across the Top End of the Northern Territory, and recorded widely in Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land (Chatto 2006). Large numbers occur annually on the Caloundra sandbanks, in south-eastern Queensland, which lie within the Moreton Bay Marine Park and which is also a designated Ramsar site (No. 41) and should be regarded as an Area of International Importance based on criteria contained in the Ramsar Convention (Chan & Dening 2007; Dening 2003). Significant numbers also occur on the Noosa sandbanks, 50 km to the north, and the sandbanks at Noosa and Caloundra probably represent a contiguous wintering ground on the Sunshine Coast for migrant terns, with individual birds using both areas (Chan et al. 2008). However, the Noosa sandbanks, which are also an internationally important area for migratory terns, are not protected within reserves. It has been suggested that the Noosa estuary should be included as an Area of International Importance based on the populations of Common Tern there (Chan et al. 2008).

In Australia, and elsewhere in their non-breeding range, the species mostly inhabits fresh, brackish or saline, and coastal or subcoastal wetlands. White-winged Black Terns frequent tidal wetlands, such as harbours, bays, estuaries and lagoons, and their associated tidal sandflats and mudflats. Terrestrial wetlands, including swamps, lakes, billabongs, rivers, floodplains, reservoirs, saltworks, sewage ponds and outfalls are also inhabited. Wetlands may be open, or with floating emergent or marginal vegetation. They rarely occur on inland wetlands in Australia. The species is usually only recorded offshore when on passage (Chan & Dening 2007; Chan et al. 2008; Chatto 2006; Cramp 1985; Dening 2003; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Johnstone & Storr 1988; Urban et al. 1986). Most breeding is on vegetated, freshwater inland wetlands (Gochfeld & Burger 1996), though a single breeding report in New Zealand was at the edge of a coastal estuarine lagoon (Pierce 1974). In the Northern Territory, the species is often recorded on wetlands of varying sizes and along rivers, and also commonly recorded on the coast, on islands and foraging at sea (Chatto 2006). At Caloundra and Noosa, in south-eastern Queensland, favoured habitat is intertidal sandbanks, those at Caloundra inside the sheltered northern entrance to the Pumicestone Passage, the waterbody separating Bribie Island from the Queensland mainland (Chan & Dening 2007; Chan et al. 2008; Dening 2003).

The White-winged Black Tern mainly forages aerially, over water or over muddy or sandy edges of wetlands; and also forages over land adjacent to wetlands, especially if inundated, including rice paddies and dry paddocks and grassland (Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Johnstone & Storr 1988; Lindgren 1956; Pierce 1974).

The species often roosts or loafs on ground at the edges of wetlands, including sandflats, mudflats, beaches, spits, banks, islets and rocks (Higgins & Davies 1996; Lindgren 1956) but also often on emergent branches of submerged trees or piles and posts (Gochfeld & Burger 1996). Large numbers roost on sandflats off Caloundra, Moreton Bay, south-eastern Queensland (Chan & Dening 2007).

The species is not known to use refuge habitats.

White-winged Black Terns are not known to rely on any threatened ecological community in Australia, nor are they specifically associated with any threatened species though they potentially share habitat with such species. The Caloundra sandbanks, in south-eastern Queensland, which are a major site for the species (with counts of more than 17 000 birds), lie within the Moreton Bay Marine Park, which is a Ramsar site, but the site is adjacent to the Caloundra Central Business District (CBD) and subject to increasing levels of human recreational and tourism activity (Chan & Dening 2007; Dening 2003). The Noosa sandbanks are also an important site for this species (Chan et al. 2008). Both the Caloundra and Noosa sandbanks should be regarded as Areas of International Importance based on criteria contained in the Ramsar Convention (Chan & Dening 2007; Chan et al. 2008).

White-winged Black Terns first breed at two years of age (Gochfeld & Burger 1996).

White-winged Black Terns normally breed only in the Northern Hemisphere and the species does not breed in Australia. There is one record of breeding in New Zealand (Pierce 1974). In the Northern Hemisphere, the breeding season is April–August, mainly May–July; the New Zealand nesting attempt was in December–February (Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Pierce 1974). In the normal breeding range, these terns nest in small colonies, usually of up to 100 pairs, but with low colony fidelity. They also sometimes nest in mixed colonies with other terns or gulls. The clutch-size is usually two to three eggs (Gochfeld & Burger 1996).

The White-winged Black Tern is an opportunistic forager, feeding mainly on aquatic insects (especially Diptera, Odonata and Coleoptera), and less often on terrestrial insects, spiders, small fish, tadpoles, frogs and skinks. In non-breeding areas, they mainly forage over coastal estuaries and freshwater wetlands, and occasionally over terrestrial vegetation (Crawford 1977; Ford 1956; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Hutchison 1971; Johnstone & Storr 1988; Lindgren 1956). During coastal migration, they are often seen feeding at sea, possibly taking wind-blown insects or items from sewage outfalls (Higgins & Davies 1996).

White-winged Black Terns forage aerially, mainly by contact-dipping, but also by hover-dipping and sallying for aerial prey, and may glean prey from substrates while on the ground or while wading in shallow water. When dipping, the species searches while in flight 2–4 m above the surface, then dips down to take prey from on or just below the surface of the water (Cramp 1985; Crawford 1977; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Serventy et al. 1971; Todd & Lloyd 1980). Although said not to plunge-dive (Gochfeld & Burger 1996), shallow plunging from 2–4 m above the surface of the water is reported (Higgins & Davies 1996; Todd & Lloyd 1980). In south-eastern Queensland, White-winged Black Terns occasionally perch on overhead powerlines over water at the Ewan Maddock Dam, huddled close together much like woodswallows (Artamus species), from where Terns drop into flight to take food from the water below (J. Dening 2008, pers. comm.). The species is often associated with Whiskered Terns, particularly when foraging over floodplains in the Northern Territory (Chatto 2006).

White-winged Black Terns are migratory, leaving their Eurasian breeding grounds from late July to late August to spend the boreal winter in the Southern Hemisphere. European and western Asian breeding populations migrate mainly to Africa, whereas central and eastern Asian breeding populations migrate to south-eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. The populations wintering in the Persian Gulf and southern Asia may be central Asian breeders, and the numbers recorded in Africa suggest that some central and eastern Asian breeders may also winter there. Present in non-breeding areas from August to May, they generally leave between March and May (Ali & Ripley 1969; AOU 1998; Coates 1985; Coates & Bishop 1997; Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Higgins & Davies 1996; Serventy et al. 1971; Urban et al. 1986; White & Bruce 1986).

White-winged Black Terns appear to arrive in northern Australia on a broad front, mainly from October–November on, but have been recorded in smaller numbers from August. Birds leave Australia between March and May, though some remain during the austral winter (Blakers et al. 1984; Chan & Dening 2007; Chatto 2006; Higgins & Davies 1996; Serventy et al. 1971). In the Northern Territory, they are mainly present from November–May, with maximum numbers in February–April and small numbers recorded in July–October (Chatto 2006). At Caloundra, in south-eastern Queensland, terns begin to arrive in October and most leave by mid-April, with greatest numbers generally from late December to early April (Chan & Dening 2007; Dening 2003). In the Northern Territory, a record of at least 15 000 birds on North Perron Island in mid-March 1992 was likely to be a pre-migratory congregation, with most birds moulting into breeding plumage; all birds had left soon after. Other large groups (>400 birds) tended to occur along the Northern Territory coast, mostly in March–April, also suggesting pre-migratory flocking. A reasonably large group of 800 seen one year in September may have been newly arrived birds (Chatto 2006).

Numbers of birds reaching Australia are possibly affected by conditions in extralimital non-breeding areas to the north, for example high numbers were recorded in the Darwin area in late December 1970 when floods occurred in the Malayan region (Crawford 1972).
White-winged Black Terns do not breed in Australia and do not appear to defend territories in Australia, or elsewhere in non-breeding range.

Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns are difficult to separate during aerial surveys, except when in breeding plumage, and thus many records can only be recorded as Chlidonias species (e.g. Chatto 2006). These two species can also be confused during ground observations in non-breeding and immature plumages but are readily separated with experience. Black Terns, which are an extremely rare vagrant to Australia, are easily confused with White-winged Black Terns.

White-winged Black Terns are in Australia primarily during the austral spring–summer, with only small numbers present in the austral winter (Chan & Dening 2007; Chatto 2006; Higgins & Davies 1996). Most surveys of the species are ground counts of wetlands conducted from the shoreline or counts from boats; access to some areas for survey purposes needs to be by boat (Chan & Dening 2007; Chatto 2006; Jaensch et al. 1988). In northern Australia during the wet season, when the birds are present, ground-counts of the extensive floodplains over which the birds forage are difficult or impossible (e.g. Chatto 2006). The species has been counted during aerial surveys of wetlands of the Northern Territory (Chatto 2006) and NSW (Kingsford et al. 1994).

In eastern Australia, the Caloundra and Noosa sandbanks, in south-eastern Queensland, are major sites for the species (with counts of more than 17 000 birds). Both sites are adjacent to large and rapidly growing human population centres and subject to increasing levels of human recreational and tourism activity (such as boating, kite-surfing, diving, fishing, bait gathering, and use of jet-skis, and similar motorised personal watercraft). Some of these activities are known to affect the behaviour of birds and all potentially threaten the use of the area by terns (and other species). Further, populations of White-winged Black Terns at this site are greatest in summer, which is also when human activity in the surrounding waters peaks (Chan & Dening 2007; Chan et al. 2008; Dening 2003). At the Noosa sandbanks, most human disturbance occurred during high tide and on sandbanks closest to the mainland, with people and dogs the most common human-related disturbances. Human disturbance was greatest on weekends and public holidays and on some sandbanks during such times, birds were completely excluded by the sheer volume of people present (Chan et al.2008).

No catastrophic threats to the species are known. Irruptions and influxes to some parts of Australia can be associated with poor weather or cyclones (Hutchison 1971; Higgins & Davies 1996).

In eastern Australia, the identification of the Caloundra and Noosa sandbanks as a major roosting site for this species, and other migratory and resident terns, has been a significant step towards protection of the sites. Ongoing counts and management at these sites are aiming to protect the sandbanks for this and other species of tern. The Caloundra sandbanks lie within the Moreton Bay Marine Park, which is also a designated Ramsar site (No. 41) (Chan & Dening 2007; Dening 2003). At Caloundra, signs have also been placed strategically to inform the public of the importance of the site for terns. The work of Chan and Dening (2007) has also alerted government managers to the importance of the site to migratory terns. They also suggest that additional mitigation measures may need to be considered, one being the introduction of a buffer zone around the sandbanks to keep human traffic away from roosting birds to reduce the effect of disturbance. At the Noosa sandbanks, Chan and colleagues (2008) suggest that promotion of nature-based tourism focussing on the terns could be a means of protecting them and their roosting habitat with closure of the principal roosting sites at peak times of use by terns. A section of the sandbanks is now closed to the public between October and March and accompanied with signage. Further, Chan and colleagues (2008) indicate that a common management plan needs to be in place for all the sandbanks and estuaries within the Caloundra-Noosa system, and declaration of the region as a Ramsar site. Further work is also needed to determine the use of other estuaries by the same birds in the region, including the Maroochy estuary and the Great Sandy Strait.

Within Australia, the major studies of the species are those by Chan and Dening (2007) and Chan and colleagues (2008) in Eastern Australia, and the work of Chatto (2006) in the Northern Territory. Detailed summaries of current knowledge of the species in Australasia are found in Higgins and Davies (1996), and Johnstone and Storr (1998). There have been many overseas studies, much of which is summarized in major works on the birds of these regions (Cramp 1985; Gochfeld & Burger 1996; Urban et al. 1986).

No specific management documents relating to this species are known, though management issues are addressed in detail in Chan and Dening (2007) and Chan and colleagues (2008). Detailed summaries of current knowledge of the species in Australasia are found in Higgins and Davies (1996) and Johnstone and Storr (1998), and international summaries in Cramp (1985), Gochfeld and Burger (1996), and Urban and colleagues (1986).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Chlidonias leucoptera in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006fj) [Internet].
Chlidonias leucopterus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006fk) [Internet].

Ali, S. & S.D. Ripley (1969). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 3. Bombay: Oxford Unversity Press.

American Ornithologists Union (AOU) (1998). Check-list of North American Birds. Seventh Edition. Washington, DC: American Ornitholoigsts Union.

Atherton, R.G., D.S. Reimer, T.J. Pulsford & M.C. Sawle (1985). The White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucoptera in south-western Queensland, Diamantina Shire. Sunbird. 15:41-42.

Avibase (2008). White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus). Viewed 21 April 2008. [Online]. Available from:

Barrett, G., A. Silcocks, S. Barry, R. Cunningham & R. Poulter (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

BirdLife International (2007e). Species factsheet: Chlidonias leucopterus. Viewed on 21 April 2008. [Online]. Cambridge, UK, BirdLife International. Available from:

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Chan K., Dening, J. & Malinen, L.. (2008). Can tern migrants coexist with urban development and estuarine recreational activities?. In: Wetlands: Ecology, Conservation and Restoration. Hauppauge, N.Y: Nova Science Publishers.

Chan, K. & J. Dening (2007). Use of sandbanks by terns in Queensland, Australia: a priority for conservation in a popular recreational waterway. Biodiversity and Conservation. 16(2):447-464.

Chatto, R. (2006). The Distribution and Status of Waterbirds Around the Coast and Coastal Wetlands of the Northern Territory. Palmerston, NT: Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Coates, B.J. (1985). The Birds of Papua New Guinea. Volume 1. Alderley, Queensland: Dove Publications.

Coates, B.J. & K.D. Bishop (1997). A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. Alderley, Queensland: Dove Publications.

Cramp, S. (1985). Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Crawford, D.N. (1972). Birds of Darwin area, with some records from other parts of Northern Territory. Emu. 72:131-48.

Crawford, D.N. (1977). Notes on the feeding of two Chlidonias terns. Emu. 77:146-147.

de Rebeira, A. & de Rebeira, P. (undated). Birds of Eyre. An Annotated List.

Dening, J. (2003). Major tern site on Qld coast. The Tattler. 36:6.

Dening, J. (2008). Personal communication.

Ford, J.R. (1956). Irruption of the White-winged Black-Tern in the south-west, 1956. II. Western Australian Naturalist. 5:123.

Gill, F. & M. Wright (2006). Birds of the World: Recommended English Names. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Gill, F. & M. Wright (2008). IOC English Names of Birds Project (version 1.1). Viewed 21 April 2008. [Online]. Available from:

Gochfeld, M. & J. Burger (1996). Family Sternidae (Terns). In: del Hoyo, J A. Elliott & J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Page(s) 624-667. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Harrison, F. (1997). Three significant tern flocks in North Queensland, Australia, recorded during wader surveys. Stilt. 31:40.

Hermes, N., O. Evans & B. Evans (1986). Norfolk Island birds: a review. Notornis. 33:141-149.

Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Hutchison, B. (1971). Irruption of White-winged Black Terns, 1970. Western Australian Naturalist. 12(1):22.

Jaensch, R.P. (1989b). Birds of Wetlands and Grasslands in the Kimberley Division, Western Australia: Some Records of Interest, 1981-88. Page(s) 1981-88. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Jaensch, R.P., R.M. Vervest & M.J. Hewish (1988). Waterbirds in nature reserves of south-western Australia 1981-1985: reserve accounts. RAOU Report Series. 30.

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Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Chlidonias leucopterus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sat, 20 Sep 2014 03:25:24 +1000.