Sooty Tern: Seasonal Occurrence & Geographic Distribution

Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata

Status: Fairly common to common summer resident in pelagic waters off the Texas coast. Often found near deepwater tuna schools and often in large flocks. Very local breeding species along the Lower Laguna Madre near Arroyo City (April-June). Occasionally seen along the coast at South Padre Island and Boca from April-September. There are many records along the coast and at scattered inland locations following tropical storms.

Habitat: pelagic waters, spoil islands (for nesting) and coastal beaches

Similar Species: Most closely resembles the slightly smaller Bridled Tern. Sooty Tern can often be distinguished from Bridled Tern because of its jet-black plumage and stockier build, however, distant birds on the open ocean can prove to be challenging. Juveniles are completely black, and are easiest to identify. In addition to plumage differences, adult Sooties show only narrow white outer tail feathers (Bridled are much more extensively white) and a more limited amount of white in forehead.

Voice: a distinctive high nasal, “wackee-wak”

  © Copyright  Brad McKinney  31 October 31, 2004 (Status updated by Garett Hodne Nov 2014)


The graph below shows the number and date of all Sooty Tern sightings on all Texas Pelagics from 1992 to 2014:

SOTE Graph



This map shows the geographic distribution of Sooty Tern sightings (grey diamond) on 27 Texas Pelagics mostly from South Padre Island, but also includes 1 trip from Port Aransas and 2 trips from Port O’Connor. Sighting coordinates from the remaining 25 + Texas Pelagics are not available.

Sooty Terns are predominately found over the deep pelagic waters but occasionally move onto the shelf.

View Pelagic Terns in a larger map

Click on the box in the upper left of the map to view the map legend.

Click on each sighting symbol and the data label will appear showing the time, date and the number of birds seen.

Click on the link on the bottom of the map to view a larger map.

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