(2087) Sterna albifrons albifrons.
THE LITTLE TERN or TERNLET.
Sterna albifrons Vroeg, Cat. Verzam. Vogel Adum., p. 6 (1767) (Holland). Sterna minuta. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 321.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Upper lores and crown to nape velvety-black; forehead white, sometimes running back to the eye at the sides; upper plumage pale pearl-grey, shading to pure white on the rump, upper tail-coverts and tail; first two and rarely three primaries brown, with brown shafts and broad white margins to the inner webs; other primaries and secondaries grey with white internal edges; lower plumage pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill orange-yellow or yellow with a broad black tip ; legs and feet orange-yellow.
Measurements. Wing 169 to 183 mm.; tail to end of outer tail-feathers 75 to 95 mm.; culmen 28 to 34 mm., average 30.6 mm.; tarsus about 20 mm.
In Winter the crown is much mixed with white; the upper tail-coverts more grey and the bill becomes blackish and the legs and feet dusky red.
Young birds have the upper plumage with dark bars taking the contour of the feathers; the crown is white speckled with brown and the lores and forehead finely speckled with black; the nape is blackish with the finest white speckles.
Nestling in down. Above pale sandy-brown, mottled with buff forming three indefinite streaks on the crown and two on the back; underparts white, more buffy on the throat and chin.
Distribution. Temperate Europe, North Africa and Western Asia to Transcaspia and possibly Persia. Wandering in Winter South to Somaliland, the Mekran coast and Sind-
Nidification. The Ternlet breeds in small colonies on sea-coasts, making no nest beyond a scratching in the sand or among pebbles and laying two or three eggs which vary in ground-colour from white to sandy-buff, spotted or speckled with various shades of brown and red-brown with secondary markings of lavender. In shape they are broad obtuse ovals and Jourdain gives the average of one hundred eggs as 32.3 x 23.8 mm.: maxima 36.0 x 23.6 and 33.0 X 25.6 mm.; minima 30.0 X 23.0 and 30.8 x 20.8 mm.
The breeding-season commences on the last ten days of May and continues to the middle of: June.
Habits. The Little Tern is a sea-bird, frequenting the coasts of the countries it in habits. It associates in flocks of about a dozen to twenty pairs, subsisting on small fish, shrimps, mollusca and eels. These it takes as it flies backwards and forwards, hovering for a moment on quickly beating wings and then plunging headlong into the water. It swims but little and when on land seldom runs about but sits and rests before once more taking to wing. Its note is a " jek-ek- - jek-ek," whilst over its breeding-ground it constantly utters a call-note sounding like "tiri-iri, tiri-iri.''