Least Tern

Sternula antillarum

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

LETE

Code 6

STEANT

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Least Tern is evaluated as Least Concern at this time. The prior rating for the Least Tern was Lower Risk. That rating was downgraded to Least Concern in 2004 due the size of the Least Tern. The Least Tern has a range of nearly half a million square kilometers. The population of the Least Tern is estimated at around 70,000 individual birds. This bird is native to South America, the Caribbean, North America and Central America. There are no immediate threats facing the Least Tern at this time that would indicate a need for concern regarding its population.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Least Tern: This small tern has slate-gray upperparts, white underparts; crown and nape are black, and the forehead is white. Black leading edge of outer wing is conspicuous in flight. The tail is forked, and the bill and feet are yellow. It feeds on small fish and invertebrates. It has a fast smooth flight with rapid wing beats. Hovers briefly before dipping down to seize prey. Sexes are similar.


Range and Habitat

Least Tern: Breeds along California coast, along rivers in Mississippi Valley, and from Maine south to Florida and the Gulf coast. Winters along coasts of Central and northern South America. Prefers broad, level expanses of open sandy or gravelly beach, dredge spoil and other open shoreline areas, and broad river valley sandbars.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

"kip-kip-kip", "zreep"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Least terns are the smallest member of the gull and tern family.
  • Courtship typically takes place removed from the nesting colony site, usually on an exposed tidal flat or beach.
  • They prefer sandy beaches for nesting, but will use a flat gravel roof of a building. On sunny days the hot tar showing through the gravel can burn the feet of chicks or become stuck in their down.
  • A group of least terns are collectively known as a "straightness" of terns.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP

CERange Map for Least Tern

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
CrownX
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
NapeX
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
Outer wingX
The alula and the primary feathers.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X