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Little Tern

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Nationally scarce Dorset is one of the few places that the little gull nests.



Photograph by: 
Debby Saunders

Little Tern: turning it around

Post date: Thursday, 7 May, 2015 - 00:00

The little tern (Sterna albifrons) is one of Britain's rarest species of breeding sea bird. It nests in colonies on shingle beaches and there are few such colonies here. I am delighted to say, however, that Dorset has such a breeding colony on the Chesil Beach; the only colony in south west England. Recently the number of nesting pairs became dangerously low due to human interference and natural predation by other species but stringent controls and monitoring, mainly by enthusiastic volunteers, means that the numbers have risen and it is, once again a thriving community raising about sixty fledgeling in 2014. A real success story for conservation in general and the RSPB in particular who oversee the project.

The little tern is, like other tern species, a migrant visiting our shores to breed during our summer from May until August; they over winter off the coasts of east and west Africa. They are the smallest of the tern species in this country and have a distinctive white flash on their forehead(albi = white; frons = front) contrasting with the surrounding black cap. They are very active birds as well as noisy, constantly chattering to their neighbours!



Long live the little tern!

Post date: Tuesday, 4 August, 2015 - 00:00

"Wildlife conservationists studying rare little terns on Chesil Beach have discovered that two of the nesting colony residents are now fifteen and sixteen years old and during their annual African migrations have notched up over 100,000km each."

Find out more from this article published on the RSPB website - just click to read



The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Little Tern
Scientific Name Sterna albifrons
Status Local
Interest Level
Species Family Terns
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
Preferred Environment
  • Shingle beaches
Look for Small terns fishing over the Fleet and in Portland Harbour
Additional Identification Notes
  • One of the country's rarest breeding sea birds and found only in Dorset on the shingle of Chesil beach
  • Much smaller than other terns with a white forehead
  • Thanks to extreme efforts to protect them the Chesil colony is thriving and now growing in numbers