Least Terns

Easily identified by their small size, yellow bill, buoyant flight and quick, sharp dives for fish, least terns are permanent residents of South Florida, where they feed near shore and on bays and estuaries.  During the breeding season, they are found along the coast, from the Mid Atlantic to Central America, and along major rivers, from the Mississippi Valley to the Front Range of the Rockies.

Though they prefer to nest on sandy beaches, least terns may also use flat, graveled roofs.  A shallow depression in the sand or gravel serves as the nest cup and eggs are laid by mid spring.  Those that breed along rivers of the Interior or along the Mid Atlantic beaches head to more southern latitudes during the winter months, some migrating as far as the northern coast of South America.

The damming of rivers and the development of pristine beaches has reduced the availability of good breeding habitat in many areas.  Nevertheless, the population of these adaptable sea birds appears to be relatively stable; perhaps our relentless construction of big box stores with massive, flat roofs has balanced our destruction of natural beaches.