WatchList Species Account for Roseate Tern (Sterna dougalli)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species

 

Photo: © Pat Lynch

Photo: © Pat Lynch

Primarily tropical, it has a scattered distribution in Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, including Australia, but extends into the temperate regions of Europe and North America. It is local and usually uncommon. North temperate zone breeding populations on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean have declined considerably since the 1950s. In Eastern North America it breeds on the coast of Nova Scotia and from coastal Maine along the coast to Long Island, and in the Florida Keys. About 80% of the northeastern birds breed at Great Gull Island, NY, and Bird Island, MA, both with around 2,500 to 3,000 adults. The total population in the Northeast is estimated at 6,000 to 6,500 birds. Breeding birds in the Northeast and in Europe almost always breed colonially with Common or Arctic terns. In contrast to the other terns it chooses sites in dense vegetation, among rocks and driftwook, or even in tires or wooden boxes. It nexts primarily on small rocky, offshore islands but also barrier beaches or salt marsh islands.

 

Expanding gull populations are a problem for this and other terns and a hurricane in the Northeast in 1991 may have accounted for a decrease; there has been some recovery since. The species nests also in the Caribbean, where it is subject to egg collection by local residents. Adult mortality during the winter is higher than for other seabirds and needs study. Protection of nesting colonies from humans and from disruptions by gulls would help its conservation. It is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.