Least Tern

Least Terns
Bob Gress

Least Tern
Sternula antillarum
  • Comments:  The smallest of the terns found in the Great Plains, Least Terns nest colonially along sparsely vegetated coastal beaches, rivers, sand and gravel pits and dried mudflats. Elaborate aerial courtship displays precede creation of a simple scrape in which 2-3 eggs are laid. Eggs, chicks and adults may be taken by predators, crushed by hail storms and drowned by water from thunderstorms or water releases from reservoirs. Habitat losses, human recreation in nesting areas and pollution are continual threats. They winter along coastal areas. Their diet consists of small fish and shrimp and other invertebrates they catch by hovering, followed by quickly diving and grasping their prey in their bill. Least Terns are federally listed as endangered where they occur in the Great Plains. They are unlikely to be mistaken for other terns in the Great Plains due to the combination of small size, light color, yellow legs and white forehead.

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The Shoreline
Text: Suzanne Fellows and Bob Gress
Design: Jim Mason