Terns (Sternidae)

Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) - HBW 3, p. 657

French: Sterne naine German: Zwergseeschwalbe Spanish: Charrancito Común

Taxonomy: Sterna albifrons Pallas, 1764, Netherlands.
Forms nearly cosmopolitan superspecies with S. saundersi, S. antillarum, S. superciliaris, S. lorata and probably also S. balaenarum, all of which formerly placed in separate genus Sternula. Some works treat S. antillarum, and sometimes S. saundersi, as conspecific with S. albifrons. Validity of races innominata and placens questionable. Apparent hybridization with S. nereis in S Australia indicates close relationship; long-term study of relationships required. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • albifrons Pallas, 1764 - Europe through W Asia E to Nepal, and presumably this race also in Kenya (breeding at L Turkana), and in W Indian Ocean (Seychelles and Comoro Is, where resident, but breeding not confirmed); winters on coasts from Africa E to W India.
  • guineae Bannerman, 1931 - Ghana to Gabon, with marginal population in Mauritania and Senegal which may be this race or nominate.
  • innominata Zarudny & Loudon, 1902 - islands in Persian Gulf.

     See all 6 subspecies
  • albifrons Pallas, 1764 - Europe through W Asia E to Nepal, and presumably this race also in Kenya (breeding at L Turkana), and in W Indian Ocean (Seychelles and Comoro Is, where resident, but breeding not confirmed); winters on coasts from Africa E to W India.
  • guineae Bannerman, 1931 - Ghana to Gabon, with marginal population in Mauritania and Senegal which may be this race or nominate.
  • innominata Zarudny & Loudon, 1902 - islands in Persian Gulf.
  • pusilla Temminck, 1840 - NE India and Myanmar, islands off Sumatra and Java, and probably this race in Sri Lanka.
  • sinensis Gmelin, 1789 - SE Russia, China, Japan, SE Asia, Philippines and New Guinea; recent colonist to Micronesia (Saipan) E to Hawaii most likely this race, and possibly also some birds in Australia, New Britain and nearby waters; N populations mostly winter in Malaysia.
  • placens Gould, 1871 - E Australia and E Tasmania.