Gull-billed Tern

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Gelochelidon nilotica


Size 35-43cm.

Large, pale tern with heavy black bill. Upper wing, back and tail light grey, wing tips darker grey. Underparts white. Feet black. Neat black cap pulled down over the eyes in breeding plumage. Non breeding birds have a white head with smudgy black eye/ear patch.

Feeding Habits

They feed on small fish, crustaceans, grasshoppers, insects and larvae, frogs and lizards, swooping gracefully to pluck prey from water surface or ground.


Often only seen singly or in pairs when not breeding. Breeding in colonies, mostly on remote inland lagoons after heavy rain or flooding. They nest on the ground in a shallow scrape surrounded by dry vegetation or flood debris. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.

Places to Look

Usually coastal estuaries, mangroves, mudflats, freshwater swamps, salt marshes and beaches.


NQ Dry Tropics gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Birdlife Townsville (formerly the Townsville Region Bird Observers Club) to the information on this page.

© Birdlife Townsville
© Birdlife Townsville

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