South Texas is such a wonderful place for birding. In addition to lots of beautiful common bird species, there are always at least a few uncommon birds to watch and photograph. In May, one of those special birds is the Least Tern.
This tiny tern is about the same size as an American Robin, or maybe even a bit smaller than that. It’s a sprite of a waterbird that frequents sand bars, lagoons, and quiet, sandy beaches and is one of the many breeding birds in south Texas.
It catches prey by hovering above shallow waters and then diving for small fish.
The Least Tern lays two to three eggs in a shallow depression in the sand and relies on the color and pattern of the eggs to blend in with their surroundings.
Unfortunately, the Least Tern is threatened in some areas and has disappeared from several sites where it used to nest because the beaches and sand bars it requires are subject to destruction and disturbance. It is still fairly common at several sites in coastal Texas.
The Least Tern shares its sandy habitat with the much bigger and more colorful Black Skimmer.
The Spotted Sandpiper is another common neighbor,
and terns need to watch out for the biggest avian nocturnal predator on the block, the Great Horned Owl.
Watch for beautiful Least Terns among hundreds of other elegant birds when visiting south Texas!