Least Terns

Least Terns breed on Plum Island (Massachusetts), providing opportunities for some interesting observations and photos. The number of nesting pairs was exceptionally high on the southern tip of the island this year. The lack of people on the beach during May and early June likely played some role in this. We had to be extra careful not to disturb the birds since they were nesting closer to the boundary of the closed area on the beach at Sandy Point than usual.

Least Terns are the smallest tern and have a yellow beak with a black tip that is all black in the non-breeding season. During breeding season they have a black cap with a white forehead.

I like to get in-flight photos and there were plenty of chances given the number of birds.

The terns were on the nest in early June. The eggs are really difficult to spot against the sand, as you might expect. The nesting area is roped off to keep people from disturbing the birds but also to prevent walkers from accidentally stepping on the well camouflaged eggs.

Chicks began appearing in late June. They are also pretty well camouflaged.

The Common Tern is not common on this beach but they occasionally fish in the river mouth and along the shore. They are larger with an orange beak and a solid black cap.

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