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Little tern

What am I?

The little tern is the UK’s smallest tern. It is short-tailed and has a fast flight. Its bill is a distinctive yellow with a black tip. It is noisy at its breeding colony where courtship starts with an aerial display involving the male calling and carrying a fish to attract a mate, which chases him up high before he descends, gliding with wings in a ‘V’.

How to spot them

Little tern are silvery-grey above and white below, with a black cap, black eyestripe, and a white forehead. It has a short tail, tiny, yellowy-orange legs, and yellow bill with a black tip.

Where to see them

Little tern are summer visitors to gravelly beaches around the coast.

Conservation status

The little tern is amber listed in the UK. (Opens in a new window)

Did you know?

During their courtship, male little terns put on impressive aerial displays that involve carrying fish to attract mates. The females will chase them high up into the sky; the males then descending at a glide with their wings forming a ‘V’ shape.