Thompson, Bruce C., Jerome A. Jackson, Joannna Burger, Laura A. Hill, Eileen M. Kirsch and Jonathan L. Atwood. Not only are the birds extremely susceptible to nest disturbance, they have lost extensive nesting habitat to beach development and increased human activity there. Often seen flying low over the water, with quick deep wingbeats and shrill cries. Physical Characteristics. 620 S. Meridian St. • Tallahassee, FL • (850) 488-4676 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009. The smallest of American terns, the Least Tern is found nesting on sandy beaches along the southern coasts of the United States and up the major river systems far into the interior of the continent. It has a fast smooth flight with rapid wing beats. Sterna antillarum. Behavior: In early spring least terns return from wintering grounds in Latin America. It feeds on small fish and invertebrates. A poster was developed to promote the public educational project. In Florida, the least tern can be found throughout most coastal areas. California Least Terns nest on beaches, mudflats, and sand dunes, usually near shallow estuaries and lagoons with access to the near open ocean. They roost on the ground in unprotected areas of the coastal environment. Male least terns have a unique courtship ritual. Unlock thousands of full-length species accounts and hundreds of bird family overviews when you subscribe to Birds of the World. It is the smallest of our terns, and bears outer wing feathers that edge the light-gray wings in black. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. An entire colony can be easily destroyed by predation by red foxes, raccoons, dogs and house cats, by human trampling, or by catastrophic storms. Least tern populations seem to be slowly rising, although they are still listed as 'threatened' by the state. The least tern’s diet primarily consists of fish, but they will also feed on small invertebrates. The eggs are camouflaged to help prevent predation. The least tern is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Least terns are colony nesters, meaning they nest in a group, which allows them to exchange information about food sources, as well as to detect and mob predators. They lay from mid-April in south Florida to the first of May in the north, and the eggs hatch after 21 days. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission • Farris Bryant Building Adults have short, deeply forked tails and short yellowish legs. Other threats to the least tern include shoreline hardening, mechanical raking, oil spills, response to oil spill events, and increased presence of domestic animals (Defeo et al. The smallest of American terns, the Least Tern is found nesting on sandy beaches along the southern coasts of the United States and up the major river systems far into the interior of the continent. On sunny days the hot tar showing through the gravel can burn the feet of chicks or become stuck in their down. In early spring least terns return from wintering grounds in Latin America. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. In:  IUCN 2010. The oldest recorded Least Tern was at least 24 years, 1 month old when it was found in New Jersey in 1981. Other physical characteristics include a yellow beak, gray back, white belly, and black cap. Schlacher, J. Dugan, A. Jones, M. Lastra, and F. Scapini. Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers(Order: Charadriiformes, Family:Laridae). The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has developed an educational pilot program being implemented in Pinellas county. Usually hovers before plunging into water for tiny prey; does more hovering than most terns. 2009. BirdLife International. The Least Tern prefers sandy beaches for nesting, but it will use a flat gravel roof of a building. The breeding adult is gray above, white below, with a black cap. https://www.fnai.org/FieldGuide/pdf/Sterna_antillarum.pdf. Least terns can reach a length between 8.3-9.1 inches (21-23 centimeters) with a wingspan of 21-23 inches (53-58 centimeters) (Thompson et al., 1997). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Sciences 81: 1 – 12. Outside of Florida, least terns are found along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, mid Atlantic states, and down from Mexico to northern Argentina (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). Least Tern. The main threat to the least tern population is habitat loss. Every bird has a story. Spring tides can also cause flooding of least tern nests. An extensive multimedia section displays the latest photos, videos and audio selections from the Macaulay Library. Also, global climate change is an impending threat to the least tern. Least terns have long pointed wings and a deeply forked tail. The least tern inhabits areas along the coasts of Florida including estuaries and bays, as well as areas around rivers in the Great Plains (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). The shorebirds nest in very shallow depressions on broad expanses of bare sand, which camouflage the eggs. Rising sea levels and more frequent strong storms may damage and destroy least tern nests, as well as habitat. Black leading edge of outer wing is conspicuous in flight. Discover them all with Birds of the World. Retrieved March 11, 2011, from All About   Birds: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Least_Tern/lifehistory. Least terns do respond quickly to improved habitat, such as the removal of beach vegetation or the dumping of dredged sand. The least tern is the smallest tern in North America. Loss of habitat is often attributed to coastal development. Stinson Beach, California 94970 (ppyle@prbo.org) Nancy Hoffman and Bruce Casler Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge P.O. Least Tern (Sternula antillarum), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online. Threats to sandy bhulzeach ecosystems:  A review. Egg incubation lasts for 21 days. Least terns lay eggs between the middle of April and the beginning of May. Last accessed 03/11/2011. The young leave the nest in a few days, but don't begin to fly safely until about three weeks later. Little and Least Terns Breeding on Midway Atoll: Identification, Range Extensions, and Assortatie Breeding Behavior Peter Pyle 4990 Shoreline Hvvy. Copyright 1999 - 2020 State of Florida. Once the two mates are together they will begin building the nest in shallow depressions in bare beach sand. Defeo, O., A. McLachlan, D.S. The shorebirds nest in very shallow depressions on broad expanses of bare sand, which camouflage the eggs. Biological Status Review (BSR)Supplemental Information for the BSRSpecies Action Plan, Encyclopedia of LifeFlorida's Breeding Bird AtlasThe Cornell Lab of OrnithologyPrintable version of this pageLiving with Shorebirds.

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