little tern

little tern defined in 1930 year

little tern - Little Tern;
little tern - Bill orange-yellow tipped with black; legs and feet orange; crown and nape black; forehead and stripe over the eye white; mantle pearl-grey; tail and under parts white. Length, eight inches.

The little, or lesser tern, is a third less than the common species in size, measuring only eight inches in length. The colour is nearly the same in both birds, except that the under parts in the little tern are pure white, and the bill orange - instead of coral-red. The voice differs somewhat, being thinner and shriller in tone; otherwise the language is the same. The flight is more wavering. This species is much less numerous than the arctic and common terns; in its habits it closely resembles them, breeding in communities, sometimes in company with the other kinds. When breeding alongside of the common tern its nests, as a rule, are placed a little apart and nearer to the water. The nest is a slight depression in the loose sand and gravel, sometimes with a few bents and fragments of dry seaweed for lining; the eggs are two or three in number, of a light stone-colour, spotted with grey and brown. In size and colour they closely resemble the eggs of the ringed plover. This tern, like the others, hovers screaming overhead when its breed- ing-ground is intruded on; but recovers from its anxiety only too quickly, for no sooner has the intruder got a little distance away than the bird drops down directly on to its nest. When the female is incubating the male brings food for her, and Mr. Trevor-Battye has described in his ' Pictures in Prose ' the pretty way in which the birds play with each other before the fish is delivered. ' Returned from his quest, the bird with a fish in his bill circles round and round, and lower and lower, over his mate, and presently drops down beside her. Then he begins a series of extraordinary evolutions. With head thrown back, wings drooping, and tail cocked straight up, he struts - no other word expresses it - he struts about in front of his mate.... He jumps at his mate, as if daring her to take the fish. Then he will fly round for a bit, only to settle again and repeat the play. I have seen on several occasions a female " chit," before she had settled down on her eggs, get up, fly off, settle on the shingle off and on for a considerable time, followed persistently by her fish- bearing partner, but always avoiding him, as if coquetting or really annoyed. Sooner or later the fish is always relinquished, or, as I suspect, taken by the female bird.'

In Norfolk the little terns are called chits, or chit-perles.

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near little tern in Knolik

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