About Little Terns

Little tern chick

All about Little Terns

The smallest UK tern, Little Terns are a fast flying graceful little bird with a black cap on their head and a yellow bill with a black tip. You can often hear them before you see them, flying overhead with a distinctive ‘creeking’ call. Little Terns are master fishermen; riveting to watch as they expertly hover over the Fleet Lagoon before plunge diving with absolute precision to catch a small fish.

Shortly after arriving back in Dorset, the courtship process begins with an aerial display and males trying to entice females by offering them a small fish. The pair will then ‘prospect’ for a nest site – in reality just a dip in the pebbles -  before laying 2-3 well camouflaged eggs. The chicks will hatch 18 – 22 days later, and grow quickly - within a few days are running around the beach and Fleet foreshore. Fledglings will stay on the beach near the colony and continue to be fed by their parents for several weeks as they practice and perfect their fishing and diving skills. In August, the whole colony will migrate south again.

Little Tern is protected under Appendix 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act, and is Amber listed. 



Tel: 01305 206191


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Chesil Beach Centre, Portland Beach Road, Portland, Dorset. DT4 9XE


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