Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Chlidonias leucopterus (Temminck, 1815)

Species:C. leucopterus
Common Names:White-winged Tern
Status:Common winter visitor and passage migrant


This White-winged Tern has white wings and a black body during breeding season but will change into its winter plumage with white body and dark outer wings.

Size 20–24 cm

Read more about the Charadriiformes order.
Read more about the Sternidae family.


Breeds in Siberia; winters through China, Myanmar, through Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Straits of Malacca, Borneo, Java, Sulawesi, the Philippines, New Guinea and Australia.


Johor Straits, Lorong Halus, Kranji, Mandai, Ponggol, Poyan, Pasir Ris, Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Sungei Seletar, Upper Peirce Reservoir.

General Biology

White-winged Terns can often be seen in flocks in reservoirs, prawn ponds, and coastal areas.

Images of their breeding, non-breeding and transitional plumages can be viewed HERE.

A bird was seen lying down on a partially dried up lake bed in Malin Nawab Wetlands in Perak, Malaysia. It was not injured and remained immobile for about a minute before it stood up when disturbed. This was an odd behaviour after a period of extremely hot weather - see HERE.


They take fish from the water surface instead of plunging into the water - as shown HERE and HERE. They also take aquatic as well as terrestrial insects and tadpoles.


Wang, L. K. 2011. Terns. Pp. 479. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

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