It is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical seas of the world. There are some colonies nesting in western Mexico.
Onychoprion fuscatus is a migratory species. In Mexico it is considered common to uncommon along its distribution. The range of occurrence of this species is between 1,000,000 and 10,000,000 km2; global population is estimated at 21,000,000 to 22,000,000 individuals.