Inca Tern Chicks

Spring was in the air for our Inca tern colony! Back in April, our two pairs of Inca terns had a total of three chicks- two males and one female! The male chicks are named “Lemmy” and “Sushie” and the female chick is named after one of our Human Resource Team Members, Candy Caldwell (“CeeCee” for short) as a thank you for all her help with observing them during their development! The chicks are now starting to fledge, or learning to become independent from their parents and learning to fly.

Inca terns are medium-sized sea birds that are related to gulls, terns, and auks.  Adult Inca terns are mostly grey, with red-orange beaks and feet. One of the most striking characteristics of the Inca tern is their mustache! The white mustaches that are on each side of their beak are actually made of feathers and signify maturity in adults. The chicks lack the white mustaches and will start developing them closer to two years of age, along with changing from a purple-brown color to grey.

The Inca terns are a colonial species which form large flocks of up to 5,000 birds when feeding! Inca terns are found on the coastlines of Peru and Chile, restricted to the Humboldt Current.  The terns usually nest on rock cliffs, in burrows, caves, cavities, and even use old Humboldt penguin nests- they’re not too picky! When nesting, the adult female will lay one or two eggs and both parents will take turns incubating for about 24-27 days.

At ZooTampa, we made special nest boxes for them to lay their eggs and feel comfortable raising their chicks.  While not endangered, the Inca tern is listed as near threatened due to overfishing of their favorite fish. ZooTampa also participates in the Inca tern Species Survival Plan to ensure the survival of this unique species. You can spot the Inca tern families in our Main Aviary!