The little tern (Sternula albifrons)
One of the UK’s smallest seabirds, weighing only 40-60g, Adults have a black cap and a distinctive white forehead. Its bill is yellow with a black tip. Little Terns return to number 4 Barrier in Orkney in April/May to breed. Courtship starts with an aerial display involving the male calling and carrying fish to attract a mate. A female will chase him up high before he descends and back on the beach, she may accept the fish offered. Once an offering has been accepted they will then mate. Their nests are shallow scrapes on sand or shingle beaches, spits or inshore islets where they normally lay 2-3 eggs. Feeding takes place just offshore in shallow water along sheltered coasts with a diet of fish, crustacean and invertebrates. They can be seen plunge-diving for fish along the shoreline. Feeding close to the shore is a foraging behaviour not seen in other seabirds which may fly long distances for food. This means Little Terns are vulnerable to disturbance where they feed and a lack of prey food close to their breeding colony. The small colony on No 4 Barrier South Ronaldsay is the farthest North colony in the United Kingdom. Migration
Notes. Little Terns winter in West Africa and migrate thousands of miles to nest on our beaches from April to August. A Little Tern breeding in 2018 in North Wales was found to be 25 years old. It will have travelled at least 200,000 miles in its lifetime.