Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Inca Tern

Larosterna inca

The Inca tern is so-named because it is native to the same region of South America as the ancient Inca Empire. This striking bird is best known for its long white handlebar moustache and bright orange beak and legs.

Range & Habitat

Inca terns are found near the cold waters of the Humboldt Current, where they coexist with Humboldt penguins. They feed by plunge diving and surface dipping for anchovies and other small fish.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

This species is threatened by declining fish stocks in their native habitat from overfishing by humans, as well as rats, cats and other introduced predators on some islands.


       In the Wild: Small fish and marine invertebrates

       At the Zoo: Smelt, meat, nutritional bird pellets and insects


Life Span

In the Wild: 12-14 years
In Human Care: 20+ years

Fun Facts about the Inca Tern

     An Inca tern’s moustache is a sign of its physical health. The longer the moustache, the healthier the bird.

     Their call is a high-pitched cackling sound that has been compared to a cat’s meow.

     They nest in rock fissures, burrows, caves and cavities, and sometimes reuse the guano nests made by Humboldt penguins.


       Lincoln Park Zoo:

       Louisville Zoo:

       Oregon Zoo:

       Amusing Planet, The Bird with a Magnificent Moustache:




Updated February 25, 2021