Endangered Species
Midwest Region



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Endangered Species Program

Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems


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Least tern (Sterna antillarum) - Interior population

Least tern

Photo by Wayne Hathaway for the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership


Status: Endangered, listed May 28, 1985


Habitat: Bare alluvial islands and dredged spoil islands


Lead Region: 4


Region 3 Lead Office: Columbia Missouri Field Office


Range: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas


Status: Endangered


The Interior Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) is the smallest of the terns found in North America. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark recorded their first observation of an Interior Least Tern on August 5, 1804 along the Missouri River, near present day Omaha, Nebraska while on their 1803—1805 “Voyage of Discovery” across North America (2013 Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership Annual Report). Historically, terns nested on sparsely-vegetated sandbars along major rivers in the Central United States. Much of their natural habitat has been lost because of broad-scale changes to our natural river systems that include invasive plants, dams and reservoirs, river channelization, bank stabilization, hydropower generation, and water diversion.


Natural History and Regulatory Information

Record Floods Shore Up Interior Least Tern Habitat Dec. 2011


Fact sheet


North Dakota Field Office Fact Sheet


Species Profile


Recovery Actions

2009 Recovery Land Acquisition Grant: Acquisition of Marquette Island, an important resource for pallid sturgeon and interior least tern recovery on the Middle Mississippi River (Cape Girardeau County, Missouri)


August 2000 Indiana's First HCP Conserves Least Tern (2-page PDFAdobe PDF Icon)


Section 7 Consultation Information:

Fact Sheet: Upper Mississippi River Section 7 Consultation

Missouri River News and Information


Midwest Endangered and Threatened Birds

Endangered Species Home


Last updated: October 10, 2018