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Common name Little tern
Scientific name Sternula albifrons
Type Waterbirds
Status Migrator

Seabird of small size (approx 28 cm or 11 in). The smallest of terns. Pale white plumage with greyish back and wings. Dark head and a yellow bill with a black tip. It is the only tern which presents a white forehead. Black cap with no crest down to the nape and two stripes (lores) that connect the base of the bill with with the black eyes. Short, forked tail, white coloured. Yellow orange legs. In winter the lores are white, the white forehead is wider, the bill is black and the legs are darker. Very active flight, with a very fast and restless flapping of wings and with the head always downturned.


Marine environment

Where it lives

Species linked to the coast, sandy beaches, coastal wetlands and salt ponds. Also present in large inland lagoons.

How it lives

Bird that can be observed only during the migratory passage in the province. The Little Tern breeds in colonies, usually associated with plovers, avocets or other species of terns. Nest on the ground. One laying of 2 to 3 eggs in May. It feeds on small sized fish that it catches by plunging after hovering on the water and also captures flying insects and small crustaceans.

Where it can be seen in Malaga

Uncommon species in the Malaga coast. It bred years ago in the Fuente de Piedra lagoon. Currently it can be watched especially in the mouth of the Guadalhorce. Although it is not abundant, in fact it is usually observed on a regular basis.

Curious facts

Its Latin last name, albifrons, makes reference to its characteristic white forehead, feature that is not present in the rest of species of terns. Its size is almost half that of other terns. When it is present, it is noted for its restless call and its quick and nervous flight.

Routes where it can be observed
Wintering Summer Resident Migration