© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Little Tern

Sternula albifrons

  • Latin synonym: Sterna albifrons
  • Family: Terns – Sternidae
  • Appearance: A very small tern, with long, narrow wings. Wingbeats very rapid.
  • Size: Length 21–25 cm, wingspan 41–47 cm, weight 47–63 g.
  • Nest: In a shallow depression scraped out in sand or gravel.
  • Breeding: 1–3 eggs laid in late May or early June, incubated by both parents for 19–22 days. Fledglings learn to fly within 28 days.
  • Distribution: Scarce breeder along low-lying seashores around the Bothnian Bay. Finnish population estimated at 70 pairs.
  • Migration: Leaves Finland July–September (sometimes as late as November), returning from early May. Winters along the coasts of West Africa.
  • Diet: Small fish and marine invertebrates. Catches prey by diving into water.
  • Calls: A nasal “knek”.
  • Endangerment: Endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Little Terns are very small-sized. They can also be identified by the white forehead patches on their black caps, and their black-tipped yellow bills. Their backs are pale grey, their outermost wing feathers are black, and their tails are white with a shallow forked shape. Juveniles have mottled yellowish brown and black backs, mainly white foreheads and yellowish brown caps with black streaks.

Little Terns’ legs are orangey yellow (adults) or brownish yellow (juveniles). Their bills are yellow with a black tip (adults), or brown with a yellow base (juveniles). They have dark irises. They fly with rapid wingbeats, almost like waders.

Other species from the same family

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