This is a small tern, 21-25 cm long with a 41-47 cm wingspan. It is not likely to be confused with other species, apart from Fairy Tern and Saunders's Tern, because of its size and white forehead in breeding plumage. Its thin sharp bill is yellow with a black tip and its legs are also yellow. In winter, the forehead is more extensively white, the bill is black and the legs duller.
Habitat and Distribution
This bird breeds on the coasts and inland waterways of temperate and tropical Europe and Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in the subtropical and tropical oceans as far south as South Africa and Australia.There are 3 subspecies, the nominate albifrons occurring in Europe to North Africa and western Asia; guineae of western and central Africa; and sinensis of East Asia and the north and east coasts of Australia. They breed in colonies on gravel or shingle coasts and islands.
The Little Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, usually from saline environments.
It lays two to four eggs on the ground. Like all white terns, it is defensive of its nest and young and will attack intruders.
Calls and Songs
The call is a loud and distinctive creaking noise.