212 Little Tern
(Sterna albifrons)


21-25cm. The Little Tern is a tiny tern, appearing only about half the size of the Common Tern, with noticeably narrow wings and very fast wingbeats; hovers low over surface, often prolonged, then plunges to catch fish; typically repeats dives more quickly than other terns. Adult summer: White forehead and black lores; bill yellow with small black tip; legs orange-yellow; 2-3 outer primaries blackish. Adult winter: Like adult summer, but from August lores white and forecrown paler.


The Little Tern is a very rare breeder on the shingle islands of the Dráva River, where it has been breeding only since 1990s. The breeding success varies greatly year by year depending on the river's water level in June and July. Migrates through the country in small numbers, in spring between early May and early June, in autumn from August to the first half of September. On passage primarily appears on alkali lakes and fishponds of the Great Plain.

212 Little Tern pic

© Graphics by Szabolcs Kókay

Source: 1) Lovászi Péter (editor): Javasolt különleges madárvédelmi területek Magyarországon, Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2002; 2) BirdLife International:IUCN Red List for birds. Species factsheet; 3) Králl Attila, Nagy Károly: Fontos Madárélőhelyek Magyarországon (Területek, kritériumok és minősítő fajok) MME Monitoring Központ, 2007; 4) Szabolcs Kókay bird illustrations; 5) www.hungarianbirdwatching.com bird descriptions and checklists, 2004-2012; 6) Lars Svensson et al.: Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe 2nd Edition, Harper Collins, 2010; 7) MME Nomenclator Bizottság: Nomenclator avium Hungariae. An annotated list of the birds of Hungary. Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2008