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Sterna sumatrana


Sterna sumatrana Raffles, 1822

Family Name: Laridae
Taxonomic Group: Vertebrates (Bird)
Common Name: Black-naped Tern


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Description Medium-sized tern, very pale tern with thin black nape and deeply forked tail are distinctive. Bill and legs black. Bill black.

Ecology, Habitat & Location

Ecological Notes In Singapore, the Black-naped Tern frequents both in-shore and offshore waters, though it is usually found in the latter habitat and seldom journeys into inland rivers and reservoirs. It feeds by diving headlong into the sea like most Sterna terns. The Black-naped Tern nests gregariously on remote rocky outcrops where a single egg is laid with almost no nesting material. 
Distribution Found throughout Singapore waters but common only in eastern half of the Johor Straits and the waters off Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. Only one small unprotected colony, at Squance Rock, off Loyang, is currently active. The species has a tropical Indo-West Pacific distribution. Found along coasts, rocky islets and buoys in seas, seldom near Singapore.
Nature Areas Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin


Trends & Threats Harassment of the nesting colony.
Scientific Interest & Potential Value Of some iconic value to Singapore, having featured on the old $1 note. Singapore's only regularly colonial nesting seabird, it was a favourite subject of the renowned bird photographer, Loke Wan Tho.
Conservation Notes Estimated at between 25 and 100 birds. Recommendations should be made to preserve the Squance Rock colony as a restricted-access ternery by prohibiting boat approach and landing. This is to deter frequent disturbances at this site by errant fishermen, photographers and picnickers. Surveys of the granite rocks off Pulau Ubin in the last ten years to locate possible nest sites have not been successful.


Species Status Resident
Conservation Status Uncommon
Singapore Red Data Book Status Endangered (EN) [2008], Vulnerable (V) [1994]




References Davison, G.W.H., Ng, P.K.L. & Ho, H.C (Eds.). 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book (2nd Edition). Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore). 285pp

Lim, K.S. & Gardner, D. 1997. Birds: An illustrated field guide to the birds of Singapore. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing Limited. 226pp

Ng, P.K.L. & Wee, Y.C. (Eds.). 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book (1st Edition). Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore). 343pp

Wang, L.K. & Hails, C.J. 2007. An annotated checklist of the birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement no. 15. 179pp


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Species record last updated on: 24 November 2023.