Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus

This page is a chapter in the book Gulls and terns.
Bridled Tern
Scientific Classification
Species:O. anaethetus
Binomial name
Onychoprion anaethetus

A beautiful tern of northern Australia.


Similar to the Sooty Tern, the Bridled Tern is also very pale underneath with dark brown wings and back and a black cap. It differs from Sooty Tern by having a finer white eyebrow that extends behind the eye.

[top]Behavioural characteristics

Feeds on the surface of the water, although rarely landing. They are occasionally active at night, and gregarious all year round. Adults are sedentary, only wandering short distances from their breeding ground, however juveniles will fly long distances untill reaching maturity.

[top]Distribution and habitat

Coastal northern Australia from north of the NSW/QLD border, stretching right down the coast of WA. Pelagic and often on tropical islands, rarely near the mainland.


Variable, September to October in the South and March to November in the North. The nests are a rough scrape, often in the shade of bushes, on the ground. A single egg, dull white, blotched with a dark purple.


Mostly barking sounds and loud screams, though occasionally a loud 'wideawake' call.

[top]Where to find

Often seen on a trip to Michaelmas Cay out from Cairns. They are more often on the buoys just off the beach as opposed to on the cay with the thousands of Sooty Terns. There were large numbers around 3 Islands NE of Cooktown on a visit in January 2011. On the western coast this species can be seen from the ferry to Rottnest Island, as it passes Phillip Rock.

[top]Photographic Tips


Photographed near 3 Islands north of Cooktown, QLDPhotographed near 3 Islands north of Cooktown, QLD
Photographed near 3 Islands north of Cooktown, QLDPhotographed near 3 Islands north of Cooktown, QLD
Bridled Tern, Penguin Island, RockinghamBridled Tern, Penguin Island, Rockingham
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