- 8.3–9.1 in
- 18.9–20.9 in
- 1.1–1.6 oz
- Petite Sterne (French)
- Charrán mínimo, Golondrinita marina, Gallito (Spanish)
- The Least Tern prefers sandy beaches for nesting, but it 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.
Seacoasts, beaches, bays, estuaries, lagoons, lakes and rivers, breeding on sandy or gravelly beaches and banks of rivers or lakes, rarely on flat rooftops of buildings.
Small fish. Some invertebrates.
- Condition at Hatching
- Downy, eyes open, able to walk but stays in nest.
Shallow scrape in sand, soil, or pebbles.
Plunges into water from flight; may hover briefly before plunging.
Although widespread and common in places, the Least Tern's favored nesting habitat is prized for human recreation, residential development, and alteration by water diversion, which interfere with successful nesting in many areas. It is classified as threatened, endangered, or as a species of concern for most states because of loss of nesting habitat. Interior population federally listed as endangered in 1985.
- Thompson, B. C., J. A. Jackson, J. Burger, L. A. Hill, E. M. Kirsch, and J. L. Atwood. 1997. Least Tern (Sterna antillarum). In The Birds of North America, No. 290 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologistsâ€™ Union, Washington, D.C.