Spectacled tern

The spectacled tern (Onychoprion lunatus), also known as the grey-backed tern, is a seabird in the family Laridae.

Spectacled tern
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Onychoprion
O. lunatus
Binomial name
Onychoprion lunatus
(Peale, 1848)

Onychoprion lunata (lapsus)
Sterna lunata Peale, 1848


A close relative of the bridled and sooty terns (with which it is sometimes confused), the spectacled tern is less common than the other members of its genus and it has been studied less. The three species, along with the Aleutian tern were recently split into a new genus Onychoprion from Sterna (Bridge et al., 2005). They resemble the sooty tern but with a grey back instead of a black one. Their breast and underparts are white, and they have a black eye line from the bill to the back of the head.

Distribution and habitatEdit

The spectacled tern breeds on islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. At the northern end of its distribution it nests in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (with the largest population being Lisianski Island) and two small islets off Oahu, in the east as far as the Tuamotu Islands, with other colonies in the Society Islands, the Line Islands, Phoenix Islands, Mariana Islands and American Samoa. There are unconfirmed reports of breeding as far south as Fiji, and as far east as Easter Island. Little is known about the populations outside of Hawaii. Outside of the breeding season the species is partly migratory, with birds from the Hawaiian Islands flying south. It is thought that birds in other parts of the Pacific are also migratory, and will disperse as far as Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Easter Island.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Onychoprion lunatus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22694722A93465439. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22694722A93465439.en. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  • Bridge, E. S.; Jones, A. W. & Baker, A. J. (2005): A phylogenetic framework for the terns (Sternini) inferred from mtDNA sequences: implications for taxonomy and plumage evolution. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 35: 459–469. PDF fulltext
  • Mostello, C. S.; Palaia, N. A. & Clapp, B. (2000). Gray-backed Tern (Sterna lunata). In: Poole, A. & Gill, F. (eds.): The Birds of North America 525. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.