Inca tern in exhibit
Scientific Name
Larosterna inca
Geographic Range
Northern Peru through southern Chile
Inca tern in exhibit Endangered Status Graph - Near Threatened Endangered Status Graph - Near Threatened

More Information

Inca terns have a dark gray body and a red beak and legs. They are distinguished by a yellow waddle and white feather tufts on each side of their face, which look like a moustache. Males and females look similar, but young Inca terns have a gray beak, legs, and moustache feathers. These birds form large flocks of up to 5,000 individuals when feeding. They seek out islands and rocky coastal cliffs.

These birds perform courtship displays such as feeding and head-bobbing. They build nests in different locations, including burrows and caves or even old Humboldt penguin nests. Females lay up to two eggs per clutch, which are incubated by both parents. Chicks fledge in 40 days and reach maturity around age 2. Populations are threatened by overfishing, predation, and guano harvesting.

Did You Know?

  • Inca terns are native to the same region of South America as the ancient Inca Empire—hence their name.
  • The length of their moustache can signal information about reproduction and performance.
  • Inca terns hunt by plunging and diving beneath the water for fish. They can even hover over the ocean while locating prey.

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