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​Interior Least Tern

Interior Least Tern

Least Terns are the smallest North American terns. Adults average 8 to 10 inches in length, with a 20 inch wingspan. Their narrow, pointed wings make them streamlined flyers. Males and females are similar in appearance. Breeding adults are gray above and white below, with a black cap, black nape and eye stripe, white forehead, yellow bill with a black or brown tip, and yellow to orange legs. Hatchlings are about the size of pingpong balls and are yellow and buff with brown mottling. Fledglings (young birds that have left the nest) are grayish brown and buff colored, with white heads, dark bills and eye stripes, and stubby tails. Young terns acquire adult plumage after their first molt at about 1 year, but do not breed until they are 2 to 3 years old.

Nesting habitat of the Interior Least Tern includes bare or sparsely vegetated sand, shell, and gravel beaches, sandbars, islands, and salt flats associated with rivers and reservoirs. The birds prefer open habitat, and tend to avoid thick vegetation and narrow beaches. Sand and gravel bars within a wide unobstructed river channel, or open flats along shorelines of lakes and reservoirs, provide favorable nesting habitat. Nesting locations are often at the higher elevations away from the water's edge, since nesting usually starts when river levels are high and relatively small amounts of sand are exposed. The size of nesting areas depends on water levels and the extent of associated sandbars and beaches. Highly adapted to nesting in disturbed sites, terns may move colony sites annually, depending on landscape disturbance and vegetation growth at established colonies.

Projects in riparian areas or involving river banks often require Interior Least Tern surveys.  Reagan Smith Energy Solutions has the trained staff to perform absence/presence Interior Least Tern surveys.  For more information please contact Monica Smith Griffin msmith@rsenergysolutions.com

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