Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii Montagu, 1813

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Sternidae Status: Breeding in Madeira

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii

Roseate Tern Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

A stocky tern with short wings,longish bill and legs and very long tail streamers.

Colour Pattern

Uniformly very pale grey on the upperparts and white underparts often with pink wash. It underwings are white with no dark trailing edge. It has red legs, a black cap and the bill is black with a red base which is more extensive in summer.

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii


Its flight is quite quicker and shallower wingbeats than Common Tern and little hovering. When plunge-diving is not so vertically aggressive as Common Tern.


This is a rare species that can be found in Madeira and Azores archipelagos and very locally through Northwest Europe (mainly UK, North of France and Spain). It occurs in Madeira island, where it breeds in Common Tern colonies. These are coastal birds that are usually seen close to harbours, rocky or sandy islets and sea cliffs.

Distinction from similar species

Roseate Tern is similar to Common Tern though a good observation will highlight the Roseate’s very pale upperparts and underwings, longer tail streamers and black bill.

Sterna dougallii Biometrics

Wingspan: 76 - 79 cm (Harrison, 1985)
Total length: 35 - 43 cm (Harrison, 1985)
Weight: 95 - 130 g (Hume, 2002)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: mid April to September
Breeding: Its nests are usually in rocky islets or on quiet coastal cliffs. It lays 1 or 2 eggs in a single brood between May and June.
Diet: Plunge-dive for small fish


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Rare breeding bird
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Rare breeding bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Rare breeding bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2017: Least Concern ver 3.1

Wind Birds has taken photos of an adult feeding a juvenile in February 2007 that can be an evidence of a winter brood or a pair that is breeding in the winter...

Name of this species in other languages

Madeiran: Garajau rosado
Portuguese: Andorinha-do-mar-rósea, Gaivina rosada, Trinta-réis-róseo
German: Rosenseeschwalbe
Dutch: Dougalls Stern
Swedish: Rosentärna
Danish: Rosenterne
Finish: Ruusutiira
Norwegian: Rosenterne
Spanish: Charrán Rosado
French: Sterne de Dougall
Italian: Sterna di Dougall
Polish: Rybitwa różowa
Slovak: Rybár štíhlozobý
Czech: Rybák rajský
English synonyms: Rosy Tern

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