The smallest tern in America, gray above and white below. The head is white with a black cap and nape and a white forehead. The outermost primaries are black, the bill is yellow-orange with a black tip and the legs are yellow. The tail is short and deeply forked. Late-summer juveniles are brownish above with dark Vs on the back and have dark eye patches. The voice is high and shrill, with 2 or 3 syllables.