Little Tern

Conservation status

Least Concern

Population Trend


Alternate Names


Native Habitat





Little Tern

Sternula albifrons

The Little Tern breeds on the coasts and inland waterways of temperate and tropical Europe and Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in the subtropical and tropical oceans as far south as South Africa and Australia.

The Little Tern breeds in colonies on gravel or shingle coasts and islands. It lays two to four eggs on the ground. Like all white terns, it is defensive of its nest and young and will attack intruders.

Like most other white terns, the Little Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, usually from saline environments. The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.

This is a small tern, 25 cm long. It is not likely to be confused with other species, because of its size and white forehead in breeding plumage. Its thin sharp bill is yellow with a black tip and its legs are also yellow. In winter, the forehead is more extensively white, the bill is black and the legs duller.

Regional Names
  • Bengali:
    ছোট পানচিল
  • French:
    Sterne naine
  • Gujarati:
    નાની વાબગલી, નાની ધોમડી
  • Malayalam:
    ചെറിയ ആള
  • Marathi:
    चिमणा सुरय, छोटा सुरय
  • Nepali:
    लघु फ्यालफ्याले
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Sternula albifrons