Least Tern: Small tern, slate-gray upperparts, white underparts. Crown, nape are black and forehead is white. Black leading edge of outer wing conspicuous in flight. Tail is forked. Bill and feet are yellow. Fast smooth flight with rapid wing beats. Hovers briefly before dipping down to sieze prey.
Range and Habitat
Least Tern: Breeds along California coast, along rivers in Mississippi Valley, and from Maine south to Florida and the Gulf coast. Winters from Baja California south to southern Mexico; also along coasts of South America. Prefers broad, level expanses of open sandy or gravelly beach, dredge spoil and other open shoreline areas, and broad river valley sandbars.
Least terns are the smallest member of the gull and tern family.
Courtship typically takes place removed from the nesting colony site, usually on an exposed tidal flat or beach.
They prefer sandy beaches for nesting, but will use a flat gravel roof of a building. On sunny days the hot tar showing through the gravel can burn the feet of chicks or become stuck in their down.
A group of least terns are collectively known as a "straightness" of terns.