Greater Crested Tern

Thalasseus bergii

An adult Greater Crested Tern has bold clean colours including a striking black cap. Photo: John Spiers

The Greater Crested Tern is Australia’s second largest large tern, resident in South Australia. It feeds mainly on fish but will take squid, crabs, and other aquatic prey.

Crested Terns in a courtship display. Photo: John Gitsham

Breeding is from September to December, in large colonies on offshore islands along the entire South Australian coastline.

Look for them performing a stately pas de deux (illustrated) as part of their courtship ritual.


The mottled black cap on this bird tells us that it is an immature Crested Tern. Photo: John Spiers


In breeding plumage, it is a handsome bird with its glossy black cap and long crest contrasting with the white face and underparts. In non-breeding plumage, the cap is white with black spots. In both plumages, the yellow bill is prominent and the feet and legs are black.

Where to find it

At any time of the year they may be found in estuaries and along the coast where it may be seen diving spectacularly into the water to catch fish.

The Greater Crested Tern is a widespread found along the coasts of the Indian ocean, Australia, Africa, south eastern Asia and the islands of Australasia. All Australian birds belong to the subspecies T. b. cristatus.