Least Tern

Sternula antillarum

Summary 7

The Least Tern (Sternula antillarum, formerly Sterna antillarum) is a species of tern that breeds in North America and locally in northern South America. It is closely related to, and was formerly often considered conspecific with, the Little Tern of the Old World. Other close relatives include the Yellow-billed Tern and Peruvian Tern, both from South America.

Sternula antillarum 8

A small (9 inches) tern, the Least Tern in summer is most easily identified by its black cap and white forehead, deeply-forked tail, black-tipped yellow bill, and dark wing tips. In winter, this species becomes duller on the head and face, becoming dark-billed and pale headed while retaining black eye-patches connected to a dull black hood. This species’ small size and yellow bill help distinguish it from other tern species occurring in its range. Male and female Least Terns are similar to one another in all seasons. The Least Tern breeds along coasts and large rivers across the United States. In winter, birds breeding in the U.S.spend the winter from Mexico south to southern South America. Other populations breed in Mexico, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean, many of which are non-migratory. Least Terns primarily breed sandy beaches, islands, and mud flats. In winter, this species may be found along beaches or in near-shore waters. Least Terns mainly eat small fish, but may eat small invertebrates, primarily crustaceans, as they become available. Least Terns may be most easily seen standing or walking along the shore or on the beach, where their dark wing tips and (in summer) yellow bill may be most apparent. With the aid of binoculars, it may also be possible to observe this species feeding by diving headfirst into the water. Least Terns are most active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Maggie.Smith, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://www.flickr.com/photos/12599017@N08/3678675573
  2. Ryan Hagerty, no known copyright restrictions (public domain), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b5/California_Least_Tern.jpg/460px-California_Least_Tern.jpg
  3. Hagerty, Ryan, no known copyright restrictions (public domain), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/46/Calif_Least_Tern.jpg/460px-Calif_Least_Tern.jpg
  4. (c) Wilson Bilkovich from Brookyln, NY, US, some rights reserved (CC BY), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Sternula_antillarum_Bald_Point_Florida.jpg
  5. (c) Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/), some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/Least_Tern_%28Sternula_antillarum%29_RWD3.jpg
  6. (c) Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/), some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Least_Tern_%28Sternula_antillarum%29_RWD4.jpg
  7. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sternula_antillarum
  8. (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://eol.org/data_objects/22710207

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