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Least Tern


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The smallest of American Terns, the Least Tern is found nesting on sandy beaches along the southern coasts of the United States and up the major river systems far into the interior of the continent.

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Typical Voice

Adult Description

Small tern. During breeding, black cap ending at white forehead. Short white eyestripe. Bill yellow with black tip. Back light gray. Underside white. Black leading edge to wing. In nonbreeding plumage has black eyestripe extending to back of head, white top of head, and black bill.

Immature Description

Juvenile with U-shaped marks across back. Immature resembles winter adult.

Range Map Help

Least Tern Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

  • First summer

    Least Tern

    First summer
    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, South Padre Island, Texas, June 2000
  • First winter

    Least Tern

    First winter
    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Chick

    Least Tern

    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Lido Key, Florida

Similar Species

  • Winter Black Tern has darker gray wings and tail.