New York Natural Heritage Program
Black Tern
Chlidonias niger (Linnaeus, 1758)

New York State Distribution [-]
New York forms the southeastern edge of this species' range in North America. Currently it is restricted primarily to a handful of managed inland freshwater marshes in Jefferson (Dexter Marsh WMA, Lakeview WMA, Perch River WMA, Point Peninsula marsh, White Swamp, Wilson Bay marsh) Oswego (Renshaw Bay, Salmon River mouth) and St. Lawrence (Upper & Lower Lakes WMA) Counties. Breeding colonies also occur on Montezuma NWR in Seneca County and the Iroquois NWR and Oak Orchard/Tonawanda WMA wetland complex in western New York. As recently as the 1980s it occurred much more extensively on marshes throughout the Lake Ontario Plain, both inland and along the shoreline, but has since experienced a severe range contraction, especially on lakeshore marshes in central and western New York (McGowan and Corwin In press). Two pre-migratory (fall) staging areas have also both declined dramatically. One at the mouth of the Niagara River had over 5000 birds in 1965, but the terns have apparently not staged there since the late 1980s (Carroll 1988); while at Point Peninsula on Lake Ontario in Jefferson County about 500 birds were counted in 1991, but fewer than 30 in 2001 (Mazzocchi and Roggie 2004).

Global Distribution [-]
Black Terns have a Holarctic distribution, breeding throughout the northern hemisphere. In North America they breed from the Yukon and Northwest Territories through British Columbia and northern Saskatchewan east to Nova Scotia, south locally to southern California, Colorado, Nebraska, southern Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, northern New England (formerly to Missouri and Kentucky). Sirois and Fournier (1993) suggested that a possible recent range extension northward into the Northwest Territories could be related to increases in the ice-free season related to global warming. The current center of distribution is the northern prairie states and provinces of the U.S and Canada and In Old World (C.n. niger) from northern Europe, Russia, and Siberia south to the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Turkestan, and Caspian and Aral Seas. In the Americas, Black Terns winter along both coasts from Mexico and Panama south to Peru, Surinam, and French Guiana; rare in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina ( Dunn and Agro 1995).
Best Places to See
• Iroquois/Tonawanda/Oak Orchard complex (Genesee County)
• Perch River WMA (Jefferson County)
• Salmon River Mouth (Oswego County)