WatchList Species Account for Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species

Photo: Glen Tepke

The Bridled Tern ranges virtually throughout the tropical and subtropical seas. In the New World it breeds in the Bahamas, off Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, in the Virgin Islands and Lesser Antilles, locally on both coasts of Mexico and Central America, and along the Atlantic Coast of South America. It also breeds on Pelican Shoal, off Boca Chica Key in the Florida Keys, where there are one to three nests every year within a Roseate Tern colony.

Nesting habitat is usually vegetated coral cays, exposed reefs, granitic islands, and volcanic stacks. In the West Indies, most nests are far back under large rocks, deep within overhanging ledges, or in rock crevices. Most colonies are at the periphery of islands and less commonly on coasts.


Brridled Terns feed primarily on small fishes but also crustaceans and aquatic and terrestrial insects. Mongooses, feral dogs and cats have eliminated the bird from many Caribbean islands.

In the West Indies the total population is estimated as 7,000 breeding pairs. Egg collecting in the Bahamas and West Indies is a threat and wardens are needed at the most important colonies, as regulations prohibiting the practice are generally ignored. In winter it is uncommon to fairly common off the southeast coast of the U.S. but in general the winter range is poorly known.