Little tern

Sternula albifrons

What do they look like?

The little tern is the smallest tern species in Scotland and is silvery grey above and white below. It has a neat black cap and black strip covering each eye, with a white patch on its forehead. It has a yellow beak with a black tip and bright yellow legs.

When can I see them in Scotland?

April – September

Where can I see them in Scotland?

The little tern is a summer visitor to Scotland, nesting in colonies on sandy and shingle beaches. It is a strictly coastal bird, and breeding colonies are scattered around the Scottish coastline. Its distinctive aerial mating display can be spotted at breeding sites in the early summer.

Conservation Status:

In the UK, bird species with breeding, passage or wintering populations are assessed by experts and assigned to the Red, Amber or Green lists of conservation concern. Little terns are currently an ‘Amber’ listed species.

18-22 days
19-22 days
12 years
Average lifespan

Little tern spinning around mid-flight
© Ron Macdonald