Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2003-28

Common name:

Least Tern

Scientific name: Sterna antillarum
Date: 05-31-03
Time: 2:00 - 3:00 pm
Length of time observed: 1 hour +
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Location: St. George Golf Course Middle Pond (along Fort Pearce Wash).
County: Washington
Latilong: 19
Elevation: ~800 m
Distance to bird: 10-15 m
Optical equipment: 10 x 42 binoculars, Kowa Scope (20-60x)
Weather: Clear, calm and hot.
Light Conditions: bright mid-day, full sunshine
Detailed description of bird: Very small, pale tern with a distinct black cap. Black cap extending across top of head from nape, through eye to top of bill, interrupted with a distinct white forhead patch (triangular shaped when viewed head-on) between eyes and down to top of bill. Relatively long, bright yellow bill with a very small black tip. Black eye. Yellow legs. White underparts from throat to undertail. Wings and back pale gray. Long tapered wings, projecting past tail on perched bird. Pale wings with black leading edge on upper wing (outer two primaries), visible in flight and as small black wing-tips on perched bird. Pale underside of wings.  [see photos]
Song or call & method of delivery: Loud, high 'reeeep' call, given frequently in flight.
Behavior: Tern spent most of the time perched on the island, but would occasionally fly around the pond foraging for small minnows (hovering and diving). Graceful bouyant flight, with fast, deep wing beats.
Habitat: Small, shallow golf course pond with emerged gravel island.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Small size, white forehead, yellow bill, and upper wing pattern are diagnostic.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Although I've seen many elsewhere, this is the first Least Tern I've seen in Utah.
References consulted:  
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Rick Fridell
Observer's address: 3505 West 290 North
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: The tern was found by Mike and John Shijf on 5/28/03.
I also observed in on 6/01/03 with Kristen Comella, and Steve and Priscilla Summers.
Date prepared: July 12, 2003  (General Public)
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: The tern was apparently present from 5/28 - 6/1. Observers after 6/1 failed to re-locate the bird. Unusually high
numbers of Least Terns were reported throughout the intermountain and southwest US this spring.