Least Terns

This past Saturday, Nancy and I met up with Lance to visit a colony of Least Terns for a morning of shooting. I wasn’t sure whether or not any of the eggs had hatched, so I was expecting to get more courtship, mating and profile shots. Least Terns are very active and rarely sit still for any length of time. They are very small and always a challenge to photograph. Click an image to view larger.

Least Tern Profile

We found one particular nest just about 10 feet from the rope line. It was really cool to watch the adult lift the eggs up on their webbed feet, then slowly surround the eggs with their feathers to create the proper incubation temperature. Least Terns scratch their nest out right in the sand, usually out in the open.

Carefully incubating the eggs

It wasn’t long before Nancy found 1 nest with 2 little chicks running around. These little guys couldn’t have been more than a day or so old. They were so cute. Their downy feathers are mottled to make them look just like a rock in the sand. In fact, when the colony sounds the danger warning, these little guys drop immediately to the sand and lie flat and still.

Least Tern Chicks

While wandering around the nesting colony is fun and exciting, nothing beats snuggling up next to mom. This little guy’s sibling is nestled under the adult’s right wing.

Least Tern Adult and Chick

Soon one of the adults returns with breakfast. However, he can’t seem to find where the family has wandered off to.

Where did those darn kids go?

Soon he spots the family and brings breakfast over. Now the fun begins.

Breakfast In Bed

After dad brings home the bacon…err, minow, junior promptly swallows the offering whole as his proud parents look on.

Baby's First Meal?

The Least Tern colony is also home to some nesting Wilson’s Plovers. I particularly like the setting of this shot as mom or dad stretched their legs for a few moments. Can you spot the nest with the eggs in this image?

Wilson's Plover - Can you see the nest?

It was a beautiful morning and a very productive day behind the camera. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit the colony. I should also point out that I didn’t lose my shoes on this trip, so I don’t have another blog post on The Dangers of Photography. Sorry to disappoint all those who enjoyed my last mishap.


  • Dina J

    May 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Surely you lost something else, right? Your keys, map, lens cap? Something?

    All the shots are amazing. Those tiny little babies are so cute. Love the parents looking at the baby eating the fish.

    • Michael

      May 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks, Dina, but no…I retained everything except perhaps my sanity! 🙂