The alpha taxonomy of the genus Gygis is controversial, with limited molecular studies contradicting distributional and phenotypic evidence that two Pacific forms, larger candida and smaller microrhyncha are separate species. This paper reviews evidence from the subfossil record, morphology, distribution and hybridisation, and vocalisations to conclude that Gygis comprises three biological species, nominate alba in the Atlantic, and two Pacific species. It also reviews historical English vernacular names and proposes ‘fairytern’ as a group name for these members of the newly recognised subfamily Gyginae. This name maintains popular tradition but requires a minor exception to some current naming conventions. Proposed English names are Atlantic Fairytern, Common Fairytern, and Little Fairytern. The name White Tern should now apply only to the historical single species, and Fairy Tern remains for Sternula nereis.
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