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Damara Tern [Sternula balaenarum]


The Damara Tern is a small member of the Tern family. This birds is rather pale in colour, with a majority of its body a pale white with a black triangular wing tip. The adults, during non-breeding have a black mask over its head, similar to that of the vigilante, ‘Zorro’. Immature birds are marked with bars across its mantle.


The Damara Tern’s diet consists mainly of small fish with squid occasionally on the menu. They take dives into the water from 3 to 8 m in the air to catch their prey.


The Damara Tern breeds in the western coastal areas of south Africa, from Eastern Cape through to North Cape and Western Cape. The Females lay their eggs in substrate which is lined with stones or shell chips. Each nest can contain up to 2 eggs. Eggs incubate for up to 22 days. The female will brood the chicks while the male flies around and provide the food. The chicks fledge after 20 days and form juvenile flocks. Juveniles are dependent on their parents for up to 2 months after fledging.


The Damara Tern prefers shorelines in arid areas, estuaries, lagoons and reefs. It will use gravel plains between dunes and salt pans to build their nest. These birds roost communally but feed on their own. The Non Breeding birds will migrate north towards Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria.

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