email a friend
printable version
White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has a very 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not 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.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
The BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group is aware that phylogenetic analyses have been published which have proposed generic rearrangements which may affect this species, but prefers to wait until work by other taxonomists reveals how these changes affect the

Distribution and population
The White-cheeked Tern ranges from the Red Sea (seasonal breeding) south to Somalia and Kenya (resident), in the Persian Gulf and Oman (seasonal breeding) and locally in western India (resident). Seasonally breeding birds winter from the Arabian Sea to south-west Indian and the Laccadives (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to unsustainable levels of egg-harvesting at its nesting colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Behaviour Most of this species is migratory (Snow and Perrins 1998) although individuals breeding in East African may remain in their breeding range throughout the year (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It breeds with other tern species in well-dispersed colonies of 10-200 pairs (sometimes up to 900 pairs) (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and remains gregarious throughout the year (Snow and Perrins 1998). Habitat The species inhabits tropical coasts and inshore waters, foraging mainly within 3 km of land over coral reefs or occasionally up to 10 km offshore (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It nests on rock, sand, gravel or coral islands (del Hoyo et al. 1996), bare and exposed sandflats and sparsely vegetated open ground on sand-dunes and above the high-water mark on beaches (Snow and Perrins 1998). Diet Its diet consists of small fish (average 5 cm long) and invertebrates (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape on rock, sand, gravel or coral in barren or sparsely vegetated areas on islands (del Hoyo et al. 1996), sandflats, sand-dunes and beaches (Snow and Perrins 1998).

In India the species is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at levels which may affect embryo development (Kunisue et al. 2003). Utilisation The species is subject to egg collecting from colonies in many areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Kunisue, T.; Watanabe, M.; Subramanian, A.; Titenko, A. M.; Tanabe, S. 2003. Congener-Specific Patterns and Toxic Assessment of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Resident and Migratory Birds from Southern India and Lake Baikal in Russia. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 45: 547-561.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L., Calvert, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Sterna repressa. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - White-cheeked tern (Sterna repressa) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author Hartert, 1916
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 259,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change