New York Natural Heritage Program
Least Tern
Sternula antillarum Lesson, 1847

New York State Distribution [-]
In New York, Least Terns only occur on Long Island. The first Breeding Bird Atlas documented them along the shores of Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties. They were absent from Staten Island and parts of Long Island Sound. The second atlas documented a shift in distribution: a range expansion on the north shore of Nassau and Suffolk counties and a reduction along Long Island's south shore bays. (McGowan and Corwin 2008)

Global Distribution [-]
BREEDING: Least Terns breed along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts and inland along large rivers. Pacific coast: central California to southern Baja California and Chiapas (Garcia and Ceballos 1995). Interior U.S.: Breeds locally along the Colorado, Red, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi river systems. The species was formerly more widespread and common but has been eliminated from much of former habitat; now breeds locally in this region, north to Montana and North Dakota, east to southwestern Indiana, central Kentucky, and western Tennessee, west to eastern Colorado. Atlantic-Gulf coast: Maine south to Florida and west to Tamaulipas, coast of Yucatan Peninsula, and in West Indies (Sprunt 1984, van Halewyn and Norton 1984); islands off coast of Belize, Honduras, and Venezuela; and Bermuda (Thompson 1995, AOU 1998). About 2/3 of world population breeds in the southeastern U.S.; largest colony is at Gulfport, Mississippi (Clapp and Buckley 1984). NONBREEDING: The nonbreeding range extends along the Pacific coast from southern Mexico to Peru and eastern coasts of Mexico, Central America, and South America to Brazil and northern Argentina (Thompson et al. 1997, AOU 1998). The species is casual in Hawaii (Whitman 1988). Birds may remain in wintering areas during first year (Thompson et al. 1995).
Best Places to See
• Breezy Point (Queens County)
• Long Beach (Suffolk County)
• Short Beach (Suffolk County)