2013 Bonanza Bird #2

Gift-Giving Rituals of the Least Tern: A Unique Courtship Display

We're excited to continue our journey towards our 500th Birdorable species by introducing a new bird each day. Today, we're delighted to showcase the Least Tern, a remarkable and delicate bird that is part of our Birdorable Bonanza.

Birdorable Least Tern

The Least Tern is the smallest of the American terns and is easily recognized by its size, white forehead, black cap, and yellow bill. One of the most fascinating aspects of Least Tern behavior is their unique courtship ritual, which involves gift-giving. During the mating season, male terns engage in what is known as a "Fish Flight Display." In this display, a male tern carries a small fish in his bill, calls out while flying, and then performs a graceful gliding maneuver as he lands. This ritual often culminates in the male presenting the fish to a prospective female mate, a gesture that plays a crucial role in pair formation.

In the United States, the Least Tern is considered a species of concern in many states. This status is primarily due to habitat loss and disturbance at their traditional nesting sites. Least Terns typically nest on sandy beaches, but with the increasing loss of these natural habitats, they have adapted to use alternative nesting sites such as gravel-surfaced rooftops or man-made nesting platforms. Conservationists have been actively involved in providing these additional nesting habitats to help preserve the species. These efforts include creating safe and suitable environments for Least Terns to breed and raise their young, thus aiding in the conservation of this charming species.

Least Tern courtship 2-20120419
Least Tern courtship by Kenneth Cole Schneider (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Tomorrow our 2013 Bonanza continues with the addition of a small European songbird with a big personality.


Cute Least Tern Gifts


Louise Warner on March 29, 2017 at 4:30 PM wrote:
crested tit?
Spurwing Plover on July 7, 2021 at 2:54 AM wrote:
A hit song from The Byrds TERN TERN TERN
Spurwing Plover on May 22, 2022 at 9:13 PM wrote:
Some years ago some Least Terns took upa a rea and Camp Penalton Marine Base they chlose a area with good protection

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