Texas Pelagics

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Sooty Tern

by | Jun 14, 2022

Sooty Tern  Onychoprion fuscatus

Texas Offshore 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”

(1) TOS Handbook of Texas Birds; by Mark W. Lockwood and Brush Freeman (2005)
(2) Lower Texas Coast Status from Brad McKinney’s annotated checklist (updated 2009).

Seasonal Occurrence Graph

Texas Pelagics Sightings Distribution

This map shows the geographic distribution of Sooty Tern found in Offshore Texas (and Gulf of Mexico)
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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