Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2003-17

Common name:

Least Tern

Scientific name: Sterna antillarum
Date: 15 May 2003
Time: 12:20-12:40 PM, 5:00 PM
Length of time observed: 2 hours
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: ?
Location: Lee Kay Ponds, 6000 West California Ave., SLC, UT
County: Salt Lake
Elevation: 4500'
Distance to bird: as close as 15'
Optical equipment: Nikon binoculars, Leica Spotting Scope
Weather: Clear, 74 degrees
Light Conditions: Very good, although the sun was starting to get in the way to the west
Detailed description of bird: The bird was noticeably smaller than the Forster's Terns in the area. Quite petite looking. We had good looks at the yellow bill and the white forehead markings. The tail was not as deeply forked as the Forster's, but it did have the characteristic forking (I didn't see this when I first reported it on Birdnet.)
The bird landed on a small mud island approx. 75'-100' from our viewing location. We were able to put the spotting scope on it and VERY CLEARLY see the white forehead and yellow bill. It flew by many times as
close as 15' from us. The wingbeats were a lot more rapid than the Forster's Terns or the gulls in the area.
[see photos]
Song or call & method of delivery:  
Behavior: Diving and feeding near the surface of the water. It would circle to the west then return to the same area repeatedly.
Habitat: Shallow ponds with several small mud islands. The bird spent most of it's feeding in the large pond directly west of the Lee Kay Pond proper.
Similar species and
how were they eliminated:
Forster's Tern, Common Tern-- this bird was much smaller, with a yellow beak and white forehead.
Black Tern-- this bird was not colored the same as the Black Tern.
Previous experience with this & similar species: I have seen Forster's and Black Terns on many occasions and have seen the Common Tern once before.
References consulted: Sibley's Guide to Birds, Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds, National Geographic Guide to Birds
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Bruce Robinson
Observer's address: 6533 Daffodil Way, West Jordan, UT 84084
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified
this bird:
Steve and Cindy Sommerfeld, Bob Huntington, Larene Wyss, Edward Conrad, Dana Green, Jack Torrey
Date prepared: 15 May 2003   (General Public)
Additional material: [photos by Milton Moody]
Additional comments:  I am going to go back in the morning to try and get a photo. If I get one I will submit it.