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Sterna hirundo

warning Vulnerable
VU (A2c)

Contributed: Asaf Mayrose, Lior Kislev, Yifat Artzi, Ezra Hadad
Update Time: Jan. 1, 2011, 7:39 a.m.

The Common Tern is classified as Vulnerable (VU) based on the reduction of its range and the number of breeding colonies. Most of the Israeli breeding population is now concentrated in a single colony on the Carmel Coast. The estimated rate of range decrease exceeds 50% over 3 generations (34.5 years). On the other hand, the breeding population in Israel is part of a larger nomadic population, which could provide immigration (“rescue effect”). In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Near Threatened (NT). The change in the species threat category is due to the reduction in its range and the number of nesting colonies, although the total number of breeding pairs has apparently not decreased, and even seems to have increased over the past two decades.
VU Current Regional Assessment | NT Previous Regional Assessment | LC Global Assessment

Habitats Coastal Islats, Salt Ponds, Wetlands with Shallow Banks
Presence In Israel Summer, Migrant
Breeding In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Long Range
Zoographical Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Types Wetlands, Fresh Water, Salt Ponds, Coastal Islats, Mud Plain
Vegetation Densities Low
Nest Locations Ground
Diet Types Fish
Foraging Grounds Water
Body Sizes Small (up to 500g)
Threat Factors Wetland Drainage & Pollution

The Common Tern is the typical and most common representative of the terns in Israel, and the only one that breeds here in significant numbers. A relatively small slender tern, with a pale grey back and a white belly. In summer plumage, legs are red and it has a red, black-tipped bill. It has long, narrow pointed wings, and a long, forked tail. When foraging it flies in circles or hovers in place and then dives into the water.

A common passage migrant in both migration seasons. It is a summer breeder in a number of colonies, the largest of which are on the Carmel Coast and the others on the islands opposite Rosh HaNikra and in the Hula Valley. The breeding population comprises about 1,000 pairs.

The Common Tern is a colonial breeder on seashores or in inland lakes and ponds. The colonies are located on rocky islands, mud and sand bars or on undisturbed beaches. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground, or slightly raised on a pile of gravel or pebbles (particularly when nesting in shallow water). Lone pairs or several pairs occasionally use rafts, buoys, pipes and the like to nest, in inland water bodies such as fishponds or reservoirs.

Direct human disturbance, e.g. people in off-road vehicles and on foot (on shores and reservoirs), boating and fishing activity around islands in the sea.
In artificial water bodies, they are affected by rapid water level fluctuation that inundate nests or expose them to predators.
Increased predation by invasive and eruptive species, e.g. jackals, mongooses, foxes and crows.

During recent years, all Common Tern breeding sites are regularly monitored. The largest breeding colony is in the Atlit saltpans, where the nesting island was expanded and fenced to prevent nest inundation and predator invasion of the colony. At a number of other sites, e.g. the Hula Nature Reserve, artificial nesting islands have been built.

  • הצופה, א. ומירוז, א. 2009. קינון שחפיות בישראל - תמונת מצב והמלצות לממשק. מסמך פנימי של רשות הטבע והגנים והחברה להגנת הטבע.
  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.
  • ריבק, א., כיאט, י., גולדשטיין, ע., והצופה, א. 2017. קינון שחפיות בחוף הכרמל - סיכום עונת 2017.
Contributed: Asaf Mayrose, Lior Kislev, Yifat Artzi, Ezra Hadad

Current Occupancy Map

Current occupancy map by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
0 0 0 0 0

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel from the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and breeding density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values in the current decade as determined from experts' opinion and observations from databases.

Relative Abundance 2010-2020 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
8 12 12 21 19

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Density values based primarily on the book The Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Relative Abundance 1980-1990 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
5 14 14 17 22

Occupancy 1990-2020

The map shows differences in the species breeding distribution between the 1980's breeding map and the current weighted breeding evaluation. Negative value - species previously bred in the grid and is not presently breeding; positive value - species has not previously bred in the grid and is currently breeding.

Occupancy 1990-2020
Data Missing No Change Occupancy Increase Occupancy Decrease
6 35 1 9

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020

The map shows the changes in the relative abundance of a species in each of the distribution grids between the breeding map of the 1980s and the weighted current breeding evaluation. Negative values - decline in abundance; positive values - increase in abundance; zero - no change in abundance.

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020
80 to 100 50 20 to 30 No Change 30- to 20- 50- 100- to 80- Data Missing
0 4 2 22 12 14 11 16

Red number
IUCN category
Threat Definition according to the red book
() districts
% of protected sites

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