Inca Tern

Inca Tern Larosterna inca

Type of Animal:

Rocky coasts, sea cliffs, guano islands, sandy beaches, offshore islands near/along rocky coasts, inshore islands, coastal cliffs, rocky cliffs, rocky islands, ocean coasts, coastal islands

Coast of Chile, Peru, & SW Ecuador

Adults dark gray w/ white mustache-like facial plumes & white trailing wing edges, dark red pointed bill/legs, yellow wattle at bill corners, long forked blackish tail, juveniles purplish-brown w/ black bills/feet, lack yellow wattle, & have dark mustache

Fish, crustaceans, offal, fishing boat scraps, refuse, carrion, zooplankton, insects, worms, young mice

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, aquariums, & wildlife parks

Huge breeding colonies of 3,000-7,000 birds-feeding flocks also quite large

Additional Info:

Male: Cock
Female: Hen
Young: Chick
Group: Colony

6.3 oz

1 month

Life Span:
14-25 years

1.3 ft

Body Length:
1.3 ft

Tail Length:
2.5 in

Main predators of adults are sea lions, cats, rats, & raptors. Larger seabirds prey on chicks.
Call is catlike mew.
Despite webbing in feet, they’re poor swimmers.
Females lay 1-3 eggs, often breeding twice a year.
Chicks fledge at 1-2 months old.
Often take over nests/burrows of other seabird species, including Humboldt Penguins but also find places of their own. Often nest in close proximity to other seabirds.
Stable but declining due to loss of nesting sites, overfishing, introduced predators, strong storms, guano harvesting, habitat loss, & ocean pollution.
Feed by plunge-diving from height, after brief flight above prey, or surface-dipping, where they swim/sit on water & pick up prey from surface.
Courtship consists of male performing agile flight display & following female while flying, w/ fish in bill for courtship feeding. Once female accepts gift, they choose nest site together, continuing courtship on ground w/ strutting/twirling/wing-drooping.
Adult plumage obtained at 1.5-2 years old around same time as sexual maturity.
Have 2.625 ft wingspan.
Mostly resident w/ only nonbreeding birds migrating. They do disperse more in El Nino years.
Very noisy during breeding periods w/ loud choruses of angry catlike mew sounds.
Molting often occurs twice a year.

Fun Fact(s):
Very bold & often friendly birds.
Get name from being from same region as Inca Empire.
Often associate w/ whales, dolphins, sea lions, & other seabirds when feeding, often stealing food from these animals. Also seen following fishing boats.
Healthiest birds have longest mustaches.
Inca Tern, stock photo

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