Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Laridae

Scientific name: Thalasseus bengalensis, Lesson, 1831

IUCN Red list status-Least Concern

Did you know?

  1. Lesser Crested Tern is also known as Little Crested Tern.


The Lesser Crested Tern is a medium-sized bird measuring 35 to 45 cm in length and weighs 180 to 250 grams. The overall plumage is a uniform gray on the upperparts and white on the under parts. Its characteristic gray rump helps in differentiating from other terns. The breeding tern adult has a black cap and black crest. The upper wings and central tail feathers are grey. The under wings are white with greyish trailing edge. The legs are webbed and black. The bill is long and yellowish orange in colour. Both sexes look similar.


The diet of these lesser crested tern species is mostly fish. Pelagic fish and shrimp are their primary food. They are gregarious while foraging. They perform a plunge diving during fishing. The forage time is mainly day and it is done in groups of same species or in mixed species groups.


The habitat of Lesser Crested Tern includes offshore islands, intertidal mud flats, rocky and pebbly sandy shoreline, beaches, tide pools, lagoons, estuaries, coral reefs and shallow seas. In India it is seen as winter visitor in Western and Eastern coasts. At that time it is also found in coastal areas of Sri Lanka and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Reproductive Behaviour

The breeding season of the Lesser Crested Tern varies according to locations. These lesser crested tern species are colonial breeders, breeding in dense colonies of even up to 20,000 pairs. The nesting sites are located on inshore islands, low-lying offshore islands, coral flats, coral islands, sandbanks, inter-reef substrates and flat sandy beaches. The lesser crested tern nest is a shallow scrape surrounded by vegetation. Normally 1-3 spotted eggs are laid. Incubation of 21-26 days and young ones care are shared by both parent birds.


The call is a characteristic loud grating “kear-ik…kear-ik” sound.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii).
  • Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus).
  • Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis).
  • Thalasseus bengalensis bengalensis of coastal areas of Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.
  • Thalasseus bengalensis emigratus of Libyan coast.
  • Thalasseus bengalensis torresii of several Indonesian islands, New Guinea and North Australia.

Migratory Behaviour

Non Resident, but Common winter visitor