Creature Feature: Least Tern

By MDC | May 1, 2023
From Xplor: May/June 2023

Protective Parents

Adult terns divebomb and poop on humans and other animals that get too close to their nests or chicks.

Family Vacation

Chicks are able to fly about three weeks after hatching. They stay with their parents until the family migrates south in August and September.

Invisible Fluff Balls

Least tern chicks are fluffy, buffy, and speckled. Against a sandy background, they’re nearly invisible.

Good Turns for Terns

In 1985, there were fewer than 2,000 least terns nesting in the Midwest. Thanks to habitat conservation, the population has climbed to about 18,000 terns.

Just Scraping By

Least terns don’t waste time building fancy nests. They simply scrape out a shallow hole in the sand and lay one to three eggs inside.

Beach Bums

In the Midwest, least terns build their nests on sandbars along big rivers such as the Missouri and Mississippi.


Also In This Issue

Illustrated drawing of a mole, snake, and a bird

Some creatures dine where the sun doesn’t shine. Here’s what’s on the menu.

This Issue's Staff

Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Designer – Les Fortenberry
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Laura Scheuler
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber