The White-winged Tern C. leucopterus is a small migratory tern with a body length of no more than 23 cm. It has a black head, belly and saddle. The short and broad wings are grey-white, while the underwing coverts are black. The rump is white, the tail is broad and very little forked, while its short feet are bright red. Juveniles lack black on belly while head is mainly white with a black crown and eye patch. Very agile when on air, changes direction and altitude very smoothly.
It feeds almost exclusively on insects, catching them in the air or on the water surface. Very rarely feeds on small fish.
Occurs in freshwater habitat (marshes, lakes, slow-flowing rivers), being much more common in spring, where it can be often seen with other Chlidonias terns (Black and Whiskered Tern).