Little Tern

The Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. The North American race, S. a. antillarum, is sometimes considered a separate species, Least Tern, Sterna antillarum.

The Little Tern breeds on the coasts and inland waterways of temperate and tropical Europe, Asia and North America. It is migratory and winters in the subtropical and tropical oceans as far south as Peru and Brazil (Least Tern), South Africa and Australia.

This colonial species breeds on gravel or shingle coasts and islands. It lays two to four eggs on the ground. Like all white terns, it is defensive of its nest and young and will attack intruders.

Like all Sterna terns the Little Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, usually from saline environments. The male will offer fish to the female as part of the courtship display.

This is a small tern, not likely to be confused with other species because of its size and white forehead in breeding plumage. Its thin sharp bill is yellow with a black tip and its legs are also yellow. In winter the forehead is whiter, the bill is black and the legs duller. The call is a loud and distinctive creaking noise.

In the United States, the interior population of the least tern was listed as an endangered species in 1985, due to loss of habitat caused by dams, reservoirs, channelization, and other changes to river systems.