Least Tern Life History

Habitat

Habitat ShorelinesSeacoasts, 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.Back to top

Food

Food FishSmall fish. Some invertebrates.Back to top

Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Shallow scrape in sand, soil, or pebbles.

Nesting Facts
Condition at Hatching:Downy, eyes open, able to walk but stays in nest.
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Behavior

Behavior Aerial Dive (water)Plunges into water from flight; may hover briefly before plunging.Back to top

Conservation

Conservation DecliningLeast Tern populations declined by about 88% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 60,000-100,000 breeding birds, and lists it as a Species of High Concern. Least Tern rates a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. The species is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which lists bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. Least Tern are widespread and common in places, but its favored nesting habitat is prized for human recreation, residential development, and alteration by water diversion, which interfere with successful nesting in many areas. Least Tern is classified as threatened, endangered, or as a species of concern for most states because of loss of nesting habitat, and the interior population has been federally listed as endangered since 1985.Back to top

Credits

Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl. 2002. Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, D.C.: Waterbird Conservation for the Americas.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon and W. A. Link. The North American breeding bird survey, results and analysis 1966-2015 (Version 2.07.2017). USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 2017.

Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

Thompson, Bruce C., Jerome A. Jackson, Joanna Burger, Laura A. Hill, Eileen M. Kirsch and Jonathan L. Atwood. 1997. Least Tern (Sternula antillarum), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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