Inca tern

Larosterna inca

Inca terns live on coastal islands off the coasts of Chile and Peru. They are piscivores.

Inca tern behavior and facts

  • Inca terns feed on anchovies, mote sculpins and silversides; they swoop down from the air to snatch the tiny fish from the top few inches of water. They rarely dive deeper.
  • Since Humboldt penguins feed at greater depths than terns, the two species co-exist.
  • Terns also eat offal and scraps from fishing boats.
  • They make a high-pitched laughing or cackling often in conjunction with bowing or other displays. They sound off for a number of reasons, including for courtship, to alarm others, to identify one another and to declare territorial boundaries.

From birth to death

  • Terns breed in islands and cliffs, making nests in fissures, burrows, caves and cavities. They sometimes reuse nests of Humboldt penguins.
  • Incubation: four weeks
  • One or two chicks hatch and leave the nest after seven weeks.

Vital statistics

  • Height: 16 inches
  • Weight: 6 to 8 ounces


Not listed

Inca tern, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo's Inca terns live in the Penguinarium exhibit. They eat smelt and are given vitamins. The Oregon Zoo currently has 18 Inca terns.