Marsh tern

The name marsh tern refers to terns of the genus Chlidonias, which are typically found in freshwater marshes, rather than coastal locations. The genus name Chlidonias is from Ancient Greek khelidonios, "swallow-like", from khelidon, "swallow".[1]

Marsh terns
Black-fronted tern (above)
Chlidonias albostriatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Chlidonias
Rafinesque, 1822
  • Chlidonias niger
  • Chlidonias leucopterus
  • Chlidonias hybridus
  • Chlidonias albostriatus


There are four species:

ImageCommon NameScientific nameDistribution
Black ternChlidonias niger (or nigra)Europe, Western Asia and North America.
White-winged tern or white-winged black ternChlidonias leucopterus (or leucoptera)Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Whiskered ternChlidonias hybrida (or hybridus)Europe and the Palearctic (northwestern Africa and central and southern Europe to southeastern Siberia, eastern China and south to Pakistan and northern India)
The black-fronted ternChlidonias albostriatus (formerly Sterna albostriata)[2]New Zealand

Notice the hesitation in the gender of the epithet of the scientific names, as they are usually masculine (albostriatus, leucopterus or niger), but in the case of the whiskered tern is mostly used as feminine (hybrida), maybe from the influence of the previous gender used, Sterna.

The black-bellied tern (Sterna acuticauda) and the white-cheeked tern (Sterna repressa) might also be placed in Chlidonias.


  1. Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  2. Bridge, E. S.; Jones, A. W. & Baker, A. J. (2005). A phylogenetic framework for the terns (Sternini) inferred from mtDNA sequences: implications for taxonomy and plumage evolution Archived 2006-07-20 at the Wayback Machine Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 35: 459–469.