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Conservation status: Amber

This delightful chattering seabird is the UK's smallest tern. It is short-tailed and has a fast flight. Its bill is a distinctive yellow with a black tip. It is noisy at its breeding colony where courtship starts with an aerial display involving the male calling and carrying a fish to attract a mate which chases him up high before he descends, gliding with wings in a 'V'. Its vulnerable nesting sites and its decline in Europe make it an Amber List species.



Latin name

Sternula albifrons


Terns (Sternidae)

Where to see them

A strictly coastal species found around the UK coastline at suitable breeding beaches. Largest colonies found along the east and south coasts of Scotland and England at sites which include: Blakeney Point and Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; Minsmere, Suffolk; and Langstone Harbour, Hampshire.

When to see them

A summer visitor to Europe, arriving in April and May. Return migration starts in August and continues into September.

What they eat



EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
-1,900 pairs--




David Farrow, Xeno-canto