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The Little Least Terns

There are birds a-plenty in the South Florida swamps and wetlands, and they’re not always the towering waders. Least Terns are the smallest of the American terns, native to North America and northern South America. They’re migratory birds, and live in such habitats as sea coasts, bays, lagoons, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and rivers.

{As always, please click on any image for expansion!}

Least Tern in the Florida Wetlands: I may be small, but I can holler with the rest of ’em

These birds are colony nesters, breeding between April and August. Like many other birds, they usually return to the same breeding site year after year. Least Terns are ground nesters, and situate their nests on the open ground, usually at higher elevations and away from the water’s edge. In flight, they hover and dive into the water for small fish and aquatic crustaceans, occasionally skimming the water’s surface for insects. They fly with fast, herky-jerky wingbeats in their signature hunchback display. Males and females of the species look alike: They have a forked tail, with pointed and narrow wings. Their bills are yellow in the summer, which turn black in the winter.

Yes, I see you

Special spiky tail

When I see them in our wetlands, it’s nesting time — so they’re often together, as nesting pairs.

I don’t like that tall thing near us; You can stay there on the edge of non-safety while I sit and glare

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. marialla #

    SO BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BIRDS!!! I LOVE YOUR COMMENTS FOR EACH PICTURE – A COMEDIAN AT HEART ART THOU, I SEE!!!

    September 12, 2012
    • Hee, thanks so much! More often than not, it’s what I’m thinking at the time of the photograph… My mind’s a VERY curious place, hahh! 🙂

      September 12, 2012
  2. Pam #

    So cute! Love these birds!

    September 12, 2012
    • They’re such sweet little things! Very timid, though — I was thrilled to get shots of them. 🙂

      September 12, 2012
  3. Talk about the mind being a VERY curious place . . . I have NO idea why this particular post made me positively ache to be in Florida — I love Florida so much — unless it would a (very loose — VERY) association between the black&white markings and my new Barney. See what I mean about strange??

    September 12, 2012
    • Hahahah!!! That’s great. I think artistic minds especially are very loopdie-looooooop (and I say this in the BEST SENSE, because how else would anything creative come to pass?). But you’re right about the B&W markings!

      September 12, 2012
      • Right brain RULES!

        September 12, 2012
      • Oh TOTALLY.

        September 12, 2012
  4. I was just looking up pictures of terns last night. I adore your work!

    September 12, 2012
    • Wow, that’s crazy-synchronous! Love it. 🙂

      Thanks so much for your sweet words!!

      September 12, 2012
  5. Great shots !
    Really like these

    September 12, 2012
    • Thanks so very much — I was thrilled to nab these usually timid, sweet guys!

      September 12, 2012
  6. I love these dapper little dudes!! I do so love your sense of humor!

    September 12, 2012
    • SUCH a great description of them, “dapper”! They’re so standoffish, and that term blends perfectly with their demeanor.

      Hee, thanks — those words were floating around in my head at the time I saw them… My mind’s a funny place. 🙂

      September 12, 2012
  7. Their bills turn black in the winter? I wonder why? I love that I always learn something when I visit your blog.

    September 12, 2012
    • VERY good question… Perhaps it has to do with the breeding season? I always learn a little something when I write on them, too. 🙂

      September 13, 2012
  8. Val #

    What pretty birds! The only birds I’ve seen with forked tails like that are swallows (which I don’t suppose will be with us for very much longer in the UK as it’ll soon be time for them to fly home)

    Are these Least Terns fast flyers?

    September 12, 2012
    • Aren’t they dapper, as one other photographer noted? I was thrilled to get close enough to nab them…. They’re usually a bit standoffish!

      They ARE very fast flyers! Trying to catch them is tricky. They fly quickly, with herky-jerky movements.

      September 13, 2012
  9. beautiful…. the birds,,,,, and photos 🙂
    To me visiting your blog, is like opening a window onto mother nature,, i love YOUr blog… thanks for sharing.

    September 12, 2012
    • What a WONDERFUL, thoroughly touching compliment! That truly touches me to the core… ♥

      Thanks so very much, for that!

      September 13, 2012
  10. So adorable and awesome shots!

    September 12, 2012
    • Aw, thanks so much! I was thrilled to get close enough to ’em — they’re usually a bit standoffish and seemingly perturbed. 🙂

      September 13, 2012
  11. Beautiful birds and terrific photos! Very enjoyable to see!

    September 12, 2012
    • Thanks so much! Someone called them “dapper,” and I think that’s a wonderful description. They tend to be a tad standoffish, so I was happy to get close enough to them to nab a few shots.

      September 13, 2012
  12. Such pretty birds and fabulous shots.

    And so glad you appreciated being nominated for a POTW over at Hilary’s Smitten Image.

    September 12, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I love these little guys, although they tend to be a bit standoffish. 🙂

      And thanks again for the nomination — I wasn’t sure what a POTW was, but was very honored, and thrilled to be led to such a great site!

      September 13, 2012
  13. Terrific shots of these often tough to photograph beauties!

    September 13, 2012
    • VERY true! I’ve often tried to nab them in flight with little success… Even at rest, they’re very standoffish. Thanks so much!

      September 13, 2012
  14. I love these guys! I went to coastal Texas last year and was absolutely blown away by the mixed-species flocks of terns there. These little ones are my favorite 🙂

    September 14, 2012
    • I know there are many types of terns, but these littlest guys are the ones I most often see in our wetlands… I love ’em! So quick and seemingly perturbed. Heh. 🙂 I’d love to see the mixed flocks!

      September 15, 2012
  15. Fantastic shots

    September 14, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was happy to get as close to them as I did…

      September 15, 2012
  16. I’m going to have to pay more attention to the terns I see daily. Your description of their behavior certainly suggests mine are Least Terns, but I can’t be certain of anything but the “tern” part. They are wonderful to watch, and they seem to be the most communicative of birds – well, unless you count the gulls. But the gulls just like to hear themselves talk, I think. The terns talk to each other.

    September 15, 2012
    • Heh, many of these shorebirds DO love to hear themselves talk!! 🙂

      I know there are different types of terns, as well as birds that may *look* like terns but are called otherwise — unfortunately I’m not so knowledgeable on all the species. They’re all so lovely though, I just have to look ’em up when I get home.

      September 15, 2012
  17. When we were recently in Scotland I bought a lovely little painting of terns….. It reminds me of happy times every time I look at it x

    September 24, 2012
    • Aw, how wonderful!! I love these little guys… When I see them, they’re usually in pairs, so they make me smile. 🙂

      September 25, 2012

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