Bridled Tern – Accepted

1. 17 Jul 1998


Bolsa Chica ORA



Fig. 163, sketch in Erickson & Hamilton (2001)

and 10 Jul 1999







Bridled Tern – Not accepted, identification not established

12 Jun 1993


Bolsa Chica ORA



also reviewed as Sooty Tern














Figure 163. California’s only record of the Bridled Tern was furnished by a carefully studied adult present on 17 July 1998 at Bolsa Chica in Orange County (1998-105; Marshall J. Iliff). A bird believed to be this same individual put in another one-day appearance the following year.

Click image for larger view.







Bridled Tern

BRIDLED TERN Onychoprion anaethetus (Scopoli, 1786)

Accepted: 1 (50%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 1

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: none

This widespread tern maintains colonies around the globe, primarily within the tropical belt and close to continental land masses. In the Americas, the species breeds locally around the Caribbean Sea and on the Pacific coast of Mexico north to Nayarit. The Gulf of Mexico is an area of regular dispersal, as is the Gulf Stream north to the mid Atlantic states. Birds that breed in the eastern Pacific Ocean disperse as far south as Ecuador, and those of the western Pacific range north to Japan. The species is considered accidental at Cape Horn and in western Europe. In North America, birds may be carried long distances by hurricanes, either inland or northward along the Atlantic coast as far as Newfoundland.

The only occurrences of the Bridled Tern in the West—judged by the CBRC to probably involve a single bird—came on 17 July 1998 and 10 July 1999 at the mixed tern colony at Bolsa Chica in Orange County (Figure 163). This famous site has also hosted Sandwich and Sooty Terns. In reviewing the state’s three reports of the Bridled Tern, Committee deliberations focused on determining whether the Sooty or Gray-backed (O. lunata) Terns could have been involved. Pratt et al. (1987) and Enticott and Tipling (1997) helpfully addressed the field identification of these three similar species; Olsen and Larsson (1995) treated the Bridled and Sooty, and Rauzon (2006) provided information useful for distinguishing the Gray-backed from the Bridled.

The Bridled Tern, White-collared Swift, and White-winged Crossbill are the only three species on the state list that still lack a California specimen or photograph.