Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Day 282 - Lithely Twisting Little Terns

Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) looking for dinner
Hey Everyone, it's day 282 and I've got another treat today from the lovely North Norfolk Coast. Early one morning Dad and I decided we'd do the walk from Cley to Blakeney Point as we'd been told there was lots of lovely wildlife to see. We weren't disappointed! I've already covered Dunlins and Ringed Plovers which we saw there as well as lots of Oystercatchers, Cormorants and a few other things that I'll cover soon.

One of the most acrobatic sights we saw though was today's little bird. They were great to watch as they soared over the sea before sometimes hovering before they plunged into the sea after a fish. We were watching them for quite a while as we walked and I could have watched them for longer as they were so great to watch. They were hard to photograph though as they didn't come very close, fly fast and turn quick! I'm talking today about Little Terns.

So, here are the facts:

  • They live around our coast but not all around it, mainly its the South & East of England and the North West of Scotland as well as North Wales and a bit of the East of Scotland.
  • Little Terns are the UK's smallest Tern. They are 23cm long with a wingspan of 52cm.
  • They weigh just 56g and they lay 2 or 3 eggs per clutch which each weigh 9.6g so they must get very heavy before they lay them!
    A juvenille in flight
  • While they may be little they do live a long time. Their average lifespan is 12 years but the oldest recorded was 17 years 9 months and 28 days!
  • They lay their eggs on beaches but the eggs and the chicks are very well camouflaged and hard to spot. 
  • They don't like to be disturbed though so they do best in places where there aren't many people. Blakeney must be great for them as there weren't many people at all and it's very hard walking on the shingle! 
  • They are an Amber status bird as they have had population declines. This might be because their nesting sites are places us humans like to go to. Birdlife says they are even sensitive to disturbance from bird watchers so we need to give these birds space.
  • There are about 1900 nesting pairs in the UK.
  • They arrive in the UK in April or May from places like Southern Europe, South Asia, Africa or even Australia where they spend the winter. They start to head back in August so they don't stay very long!
    .....and again
  • Their Latin name Sternula albifrons translates a tern with a white brow, you can just see this in my photos.
  • Don't know how you would catch one of these to ring as they are very fast and agile but if you can get one to ring it they need a ring size B+.
  • They eat mainly small fish but also small crustaceans, insects worms and molluscs. They fish mainly in very shallow water sometimes just a few centimetres deep. When I read this I was surprised as they dive very fast!
Well if you want to find out more about these lovely birds try:

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Amazing photos of a flittery bird, the Little Tern, Zach. Love your descriptions and enthusiasm!