Fairy Tern

The Fairy (or white) Tern is a beautiful bird seen on all islands in Seychelles, even islands like Mahe where they are killed by introduced rats, cats and Barn Owls.  They are usually seen flying around trees in pairs.  Fairy Terns use trees for breeding, although they do not build a nest.

Fairy Tern © Martin Harvey

Fairy tern chick on branch © H. Legge

Instead, the female lays a single egg on a rare branch, usually where there is a knot or fork to support the egg.  She will sit on the egg to prevent it from falling from the branch.  As soon as the egg hatches twenty one days later, the fluffy chick clings on to the branch with its large clawed feet.  The adults feed the chicks small fish, which are carried crossways in the parent’s beak.

Fairy Terns have big eyes that are thought to allow them to hunt for fish at night.


Scientific name: Gygis alba

Creole name: Dyanman Roz
Wingspan: 70 – 80 cm
Population in the Seychelles: At least 14,000 PAIRS on the granitics, several thousand more PAIRS on outer islands
World distribution: Tropical islands all around the world
Distribution in Seychelles: Breeds on all islands
Nest: In trees; no nest is built.  One egg laid.
Diet: Fish, squid and crustaceans
Identification: The only all-white tern.  In adults, the base of the beak is blue.

See more:

Species Fact Sheet at BirdLife Data Zone

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Since 1998.

Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

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P.O. Box 1310, Mahe, Seychelles

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