The little tern (Sternula albifrons) is a seabird of the tern family, Sternidae. It was formerly placed into the genus Sterna, which now is restricted to the large white terns. The genus name is a diminutive of Sterna, "tern". The specific albifrons is from Latin albus, "white", and "frons", forehead. The former North American (S. a. antillarum) and Red Sea S. a. saundersi subspecies are now considered to be separate species, the least tern (Sternula antillarum) and Saunders's tern (Sternula saundersi).

This bird 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.

There are three subspecies, the nominate albifrons occurring in Europe to North Africa and western Asia; guineae of western and central Africa; and sinensis of East Asia and the north and east coasts of 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, 21–25 cm long with a 41–47 cm wingspan. It is not likely to be confused with other species, apart from fairy tern and Saunders's tern, 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. The call is a loud and distinctive creaking noise.

The little tern was described by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas in 1764 and given the binomial name Sterna albifrons.



Little Tern
Date Location Count
2020-01-30 08:30PN des Oiseaux du Djoudj2
2020-02-15 12:45Tanji Beach5
2020-02-04 15:35Tanji Bird Reserve2
2020-02-11 11:15Pirang Fish Ponds20
2020-01-29 16:00Kabrousse
2020-02-15 16:00Marismas de Isla Cristina--Punta Caimán5
2020-02-22 14:15Kliphoek Salt Pans2
2020-02-04 13:32West Coast NP--Seeberg hide1
2020-02-23 08:17Struisbaai--Damara Tern colony1
2020-02-23 13:34De Mond Nature Reserve5
2020-02-18 06:30Maputo Elephant Game Reserve
2020-02-01 07:00Maputo Special Reserve--Lagoa Chiguti120
2020-02-01 13:30Kosi Forest Lodge3
2020-01-27 11:00Al Wakra beach1
2020-02-15 10:30Khor Qirqishan--Hameem8
2020-02-23 08:00Eastern Lagoon (Eastern Mangroves NP)20
2020-02-08 11:00Shannah1
2020-02-18 12:01Narara Marine NP10
2020-01-29 11:45Mokarsagar Wetland Complex1
2020-02-12 14:55Dhinchada Lake6
2020-02-18 07:29Saltpans on INS Valsura Rd1
2020-02-16 16:15Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary1
2020-02-05 16:15Bor Talav (Gaurishankar Lake)10
2020-02-21 07:30Avaniya Lake8
2020-02-16 13:11Sabarmati River--Indira Bridge2
2020-02-02 09:30Akshi Beach, Alibaug, Raigad
2020-02-14 18:44Bhandup Pumping Station, Mumbai1
2020-02-15 18:47Seawoods--Navi Mumbai1
2020-02-02 14:10Kopar Creek-- Dombivali1
2020-02-22 09:46Okhla Bird Sanctuary6
2020-02-14 13:20Ponnani Beach3
2020-02-09 12:17Arabian Sea: 9.9N 76.0E1
2020-02-21 09:14Karingali Puncha, Pandalam2
2020-02-09 07:00Osman Sagar Lake2
2020-02-18 06:35Gorewada Lake, Nagpur1
2020-02-02 16:00Kaliveli Lake25
2020-02-23 09:30Pallikaranai Marsh (பள்ளிக்கரணை சதுப்பு நிலம்)5
2020-02-23 06:45Sholinganallur/Perumbakkam Marshlands1
2020-02-15 07:19Pallikaranai Marsh- East/West Path
2020-02-16 06:45Pulicat Lake50
2020-02-19 17:27Tholkappiar Ecological Park6
2020-02-15 14:15Mahabalipuram Beach3
2020-02-24 10:00Kelambakkam Backwaters2
2020-02-05 06:40Adayaru Estuary2
2020-02-09 06:25Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary--Saltpans10
2020-02-05 06:30Mannar Island (General)
2020-02-03 10:00Mannar Island--Korakulam8
2020-02-02 16:21Mannar Causeway2
2020-02-02 17:34Vankalai Bird Sanctuary2
2020-02-01 10:43Puttalam Saltworks
2020-02-04 09:52Wilpattu National Park1
2020-02-21 16:06Negombo Beach Area5
2020-02-09 08:00Diyasaru Park Thalawathugoda3
2020-02-23 10:04Chundikkulam Santuary2
2020-02-21Galle Fort Peninsula (General)
2020-02-19 06:52Mirissa Whale Watching40
2020-02-19 06:09Mirissa--Harbour3
2020-02-09 15:48Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary10
2020-02-19 14:07Mirijjawila50
2020-01-27 06:00Bundala Freshwater Marsh200
2020-02-25 05:55Bundala NP (General)5
2020-02-23 07:24Debarawewa Lake25
2020-02-23 06:41Tissa Lake6
2020-02-20 14:03Yala National Park (General)2
2020-02-16 10:00Fraserganj Beach10
2020-02-16 08:56Bakkhali15
2020-02-14 07:50Kalisthan beach
2020-02-08 07:01Nong Pla Lai paddies1
2020-02-16 17:30Ban Khlong Song mangroves and shrimp ponds
2020-02-11 16:24Bang Tabun Ok "Duck & Ibis" Lake12
2020-02-24 08:30Pak Thale salt pans and mud flats22
2020-02-23 06:03Laem Phak Bia--salt pans east of Route 40283
2020-02-19 10:53Laem Phak Bia--salt pans west of Route 402815
2020-02-22 09:34Laem Phak Bia--"abandoned building" wetlands10
2020-02-23 09:34Laem Phak Bia--garbage dump2
2020-02-17 15:40Laem Phak Bia--Environmental Research & Development Project
2020-02-23 08:00Laem Phak Bia--canal5
2020-02-01 15:30Laem Phak Bia--Had Sai Med Rak Viewpoint1
2020-02-23 12:55Laem Phak Bia--sandspit80
2020-02-24 09:13Khok Kham salt pans--Khok Kham Bird Centre vicinity
2020-02-17 21:38Khok Kham salt pans (general area)5
2020-02-19 07:45Khlong Tamru salt pans2
2020-02-19 07:20Kuala Sungai Abdul5
2020-02-01 07:20Kuala Gula, Perak 2
2020-02-08 09:45Malim Nawar Mining Pools40
2020-02-03 17:31De Palma Hotel area1
2020-01-27 07:00Parit Jawa2
2020-02-17 07:00Mersing Beach80
2020-02-02 10:00Rawa Segaran10
2020-02-25 06:30Bali Barat NP4
2020-02-05 07:43Salt Pans (Banyu Wedang)4
2020-02-21 08:30台南--將軍青鯤鯓4545
2020-02-09 15:30台南--將軍馬沙溝43-1
2020-02-11 10:11台南青鯤鯓IBA--將軍(Qingkunshen IBA--Jiangjun)2
2020-01-27 08:54台南--將軍馬沙溝43-210
2020-02-09 12:00嘉義鰲鼓濕地IBA--全區(Aogu Wetland IBA)(New)
2020-02-06 11:50台南北門IBA--溪底寮(Beimen IBA--Xidiliao)12
2020-02-09 11:00雲林--口湖成龍濕地(Yunlin--Kouhu Chenglong Wetlands)2
2020-02-16 09:30嘉義布袋濕地IBA--舊槍樓(Budai Wetland IBA--Old Watchtower)15
2020-02-17 12:13嘉義布袋濕地IBA--西北區近布袋聯絡道(Budai Wetland IBA--Northwest Area Next to Budai Contact-Road)6
2020-02-11 11:40嘉義布袋濕地IBA--全區(Budai Wetland IBA)
2020-01-27 11:06嘉義布袋濕地IBA--東南區(Budai Wetland IBA--Southeast Area)
2020-02-16 10:51嘉義布袋濕地IBA--布袋國中(Budai Wetland IBA--Budai Junior High School)20
2020-02-21 11:30Unda River Mouth4
2020-02-19 10:26Panabo Coastal Road5
2020-02-07 06:30Libuganon river mouth, Carmen10
2020-02-06 14:33Entrance Point and Port (Broome)2
2020-02-16 13:00Simpsons Beach (Broome)3
2020-02-06 08:00Town Beach (Broome)2
2020-02-10 09:30Wader Beach (Roebuck Bay)2
2020-02-07 10:40Wader Spit (Roebuck Bay)9
2020-02-05 07:42East Point3
2020-01-29 07:27Lee Point150
2020-02-02 12:45Buffalo Creek Shore
2020-02-19 14:26Port Douglas2
2020-02-01 15:08Freshwater and Saltwater Lakes (Centenary Lakes)1
2020-02-15 13:55Barron River Mouth3
2020-02-25 15:07Cairns Esplanade--Northern End2
2020-02-21 09:43Cairns Esplanade1
2020-02-20 10:57Cairns Esplanade--Southern End2
2020-02-21 08:38Lucinda2
2020-02-24 12:45Lucinda spit250
2020-01-26 16:48Ross River mouth at Benwell Road (South Townsville)1
2020-02-21 06:07Sandfly Creek, Mackay1
2020-02-22 14:40Avalon Beach
2020-01-29 07:58Moolap Saltworks3
2020-02-15 07:00Avalon Saltworks--Snake Island (restricted access)4
2020-02-23 12:05Western Treatment Plant10
2020-02-02 07:06Lake Victoria1
2020-02-18 11:22Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve5
2020-02-08 13:15Shipwreck Point, Perkins Island5
2020-02-16 07:00Tarwin Lower1
2020-02-10 09:08Port Alma
2020-02-08 08:00Heron Island
2020-02-09 11:00Little Forester River Estuary (Bridport)4
2020-02-22 06:41Elliot Heads19
2020-02-22 16:30Snowy River Mouth
2020-02-25 08:20The Gables, Point Vernon1
2020-02-15 10:30Boonooroo51
2020-02-23 07:17Inskip Point48
2020-02-23 10:02Cooloola Cove shorebird roost4
2020-02-19 11:24Bullock Point Rd
2020-02-24 12:49Noosa River mouth
2020-02-25 10:30Noosa North Shore100
2020-02-24 12:00Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve100
2020-01-29 10:41Narira Creek mouth, Wallaga Lake4
2020-02-08 07:29Fairhaven, Wallaga Lake5
2020-02-07 19:04Beauty Point (Wallaga Lake)1
2020-02-10 12:48Wallaga Lake entrance11
2020-01-26 17:38Tabourie Creek Walking Track 1
2020-02-22 12:58Eden Wharf2
2020-01-28 12:16Captain Stevensons Point12
2020-02-14 15:19Bastion Point (Mallacoota)1
2020-02-25 16:42Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve10
2020-02-22 18:22Shoalhaven Heads Inlet2
2020-02-24 09:54Kakadu Beach (Bribie Island)3
2020-01-29 05:55Endeavour Esplanade, Newport30
2020-02-23 15:22Jamieson and Tingira Parks, Scarborough10
2020-02-05 05:25Shorncliffe Pier8
2020-02-23 08:30Lake Wollumboola2
2020-02-14 17:36Tabbil-ban dhagun Boardwalk1
2020-02-22 07:25Lake Wollumboola east15
2020-02-16 14:00Port of Brisbane Island including visitor centre
2020-02-20 08:44Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost1
2020-02-16 14:11Manly Wader Roost (restricted access)136
2020-02-11 15:48Lota Foreshore10
2020-02-15 16:30Boat Harbour (Kurnell)15
2020-02-02 06:40Offshore--Mooloolaba Pelagic1
2020-02-21 12:05Queens Esplanade, Thorneside
2020-02-15 12:30Long Reef Aquatic Reserve2
2020-02-18 07:45King Island (Moreton Bay)15
2020-02-03 09:22Wellington Point2
2020-02-08 08:35Wellington Point--Geoff Skinner Reserve4
2020-02-12 19:37The Entrance Channel, Tuggerah Lake
2020-02-23 19:02Terilbah Reserve, The Entrance North1
2020-02-15 08:30Budgewoi Lake2
2020-01-28 09:30North Entrance40
2020-02-11 10:47Karagi Point200
2020-02-11 12:29Blue Bay9
2020-02-25 07:00Pelican Point, Norah Head14
2020-02-15 10:55Norah Head10
2020-02-05 13:42Soldiers Point (Norah Head)6
2020-02-18 14:45Blacksmiths1
2020-02-13 11:19Stockton Sandspit2
2020-02-20 07:45Island just south of Wavebreak Island.14
2020-02-15 07:00River Mouth (Shortcut), Hawks Nest20
2020-02-10 15:30Winda Woppa Reserve--The Anchorage Picnic Area
2020-02-15 15:28Cudgera Creek Bridge (Hastings Point)5
2020-02-03 16:10Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve7
2020-02-10 19:10Airforce Beach at Salty Lagoon, Evans Head60
2020-02-11 10:20Saltwater National Park
2020-02-05 17:57Belongil Creek Estuary (Byron Bay)4
2020-01-30 11:00Mud Bishops Point Reserve2
2020-02-14 11:35Bellwood Park (Nambucca Heads)8
2020-02-22 12:27Farquhar Inlet, Old Bar55
2020-02-18 11:00Pippi Beach, Wooli Bay, Yamba25
2020-02-16 16:36Nambucca River Entrance100
2020-02-10 18:10Richmond River, North Wall10
2020-02-23 11:11Flat Rock (Ballina)88
2020-02-11 14:55Manning Estuary, Harrington40
2020-01-27 17:03Cathie Creek Estuary6
2020-01-27 17:25Lake Cathie Village Track4
2020-02-09 16:25Settlement Point Reserve4
2020-02-08 16:38Tacking Point Lighthouse2
2020-01-27 11:47Big Sand Island--North End3
2020-02-09 10:30Manukau Harbour--Kidd's Shellbanks (restricted access)6
2020-02-23 09:05Aotea Harbour--Waitetuna Bay/Morrisons Shellbank1
2020-02-08 09:40Maketu - Te Pa Ika (new Ford Road wetlands 2019+)1