least tern


: a very small black-capped tern (Sterna antillarum) with a white body and forehead that is found chiefly in coastal areas of eastern North America and California

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Wetlands are widely valued as natural pollution filters and as habitat for endangered species such as the Yuma clapper rail, whooping crane and least tern. Elizabeth Svoboda, Discover Magazine, 29 Apr. 2015 Images, top to bottom: West African dwarf crocodile by Nathan Rupert; Australian brush turkey by Rae Allen; emperor penguin by Martha de Jong-Lantink; California alligator lizard by squamatologist; least tern by Dan Pancamo (all via Flickr). Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 15 May 2015 The group pointed out that the Dowses Beach estuarine system shelters at least two species of vulnerable birds – plovers and the least tern. James Freeman, WSJ, 19 Dec. 2022 Work in the wetlands is prohibited from early spring to mid-fall, which is nesting season for protected species of birds such as the snowy plover and the least tern. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Aug. 2022 Birds that use the island as a stopover include the American oystercatcher, for which the Boston Harbor Islands are one of their northernmost breeding sites, and the islands host several colonial nesting species, such as the least tern. Cheryl Maguire, Washington Post, 22 July 2022 In 2018 volunteers found dozens of least tern eggs stacked in piles, moved out of the way for a volleyball game in Alabama. Lisa J. Huriash, sun-sentinel.com, 5 July 2021 The day before, a drone went down in Bolsa Chica near nesting sites of the California least tern and the snowy plover. Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2021 Of those species, 23 have special status, including the California least tern and Ridgway’s rail, which are endangered, and the Western snowy plover, which is classified as threatened. Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'least tern.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1860, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of least tern was circa 1860

Dictionary Entries Near least tern

Cite this Entry

“Least tern.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/least%20tern. Accessed 2 Jun. 2023.

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