Dakota Datebook

Endangered Least Terns

Sunday, June 6, 2004

A small member of the gull and tern family is an endangered species called the Least Tern – of 2500 pairs that still exist, about 100 are nesting along the Missouri and Yellowstone River systems in North Dakota right now. Least Terns are only 9″ long, are gray on the tail, back and wings, and white on the underside. Dramatic black arrows cover their crowns and eyes, and their wings and forked tails are narrow and pointed. Unlike seagulls, they dive into the water to capture fish.

Least Terns scratch out bowl-shaped nests on sparsely vegetated sandbars, which is why their numbers have decreased – constructions of dams have flooded a great deal of their natural habitat, and the deeper colder water in reservoirs may also have reduced the number and type of fish available for feeding.

The Least Tern typically incubates 2-3 eggs, which hatch after about 24 days; the offspring leave the nest three weeks later.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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