Industry and Nature in Harmony

Birds of the Humber Estuary - Little tern

Birds of the Humber Estuary - Little tern

Little tern

The little tern, a delightful chattering seabird, is the UK's smallest tern.  It is short-tailed and has a fast flight. Its bill is a distinctive yellow with a black tip.  It is noisy at its breeding colony where courtship starts with an aerial display involving the male calling and carrying a fish to attract a mate which chases him up high before he descends, gliding with wings in a 'V'.  Its vulnerable nesting sites and its decline in Europe make it an Amber List species.

In Britain and Ireland the little tern is almost entirely a coastal breeder.  It is found in small colonies on sand and shingle beaches.  Around the Humber Estuary it is found at  Easington Lagoons which supports a colony of national importance.  The little tern is also found at Donna Nook and Tetney Marshes.

Little terns begin to arrive in late April and numbers build up gradually in the next few weeks.  The breeding grounds are deserted by August and birds move out of the area in early September.

The little tern eats fish.  There are 1,900 breeding pairs in the UK and the species are on RSPB’s amber list.


04 June 2015 by Gordon Kell

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