Promoting change in common tern (Sterna hirundo) nest site selection to minimize construction related disturbance

Ecological Restoration
By: , and 



With dramatic declines in waterbird populations around the globe, wildlife managers have taken great care to minimize disturbance to breeding waterbird colonies. However, sometimes disturbance cannot be avoided and other actions must be considered. During the 2017 breeding season, a colony of Sterna hirundo (Common terns) were deterred from a historic nesting site due to concerns that nearby restoration related construction activities would result in continued disturbances and eventual nest abandonment. Deterrence involved placing overhead lines with flagging 1.5m above the ground surface throughout the historic nesting site early in the nesting season. Concurrently, breeding pairs of S. hirundo from the historic nesting site were encouraged to relocate to a nearby location where construction disturbance was considered minimal via a mix of social attractants (digital calls and decoys). This paired approach of deterrence and attraction was considered successful at relocating the colony, with 240 active S. hirundo nests at the relocation site. While nine nests were established in the historic colony when only diagonal and perpendicular overhead lines were present, no additional nests constructed after overhead parallel lines were added. Eggs (n=13) from these early nests were transferred into similar aged nests in the relocation colony and allowed to incubate naturally with an existing clutch. Eleven of the 13 relocated eggs successfully hatched. The success of this project shows that it is possible, with careful planning and coordination, for construction activities at habitat restoration sites to continue uninterrupted and still allow for successful nesting.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Promoting change in common tern (Sterna hirundo) nest site selection to minimize construction related disturbance
Series title Ecological Restoration
DOI 10.3368/er.37.3.143
Volume 37
Issue 3
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher University of Wisconsin Press
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 5 p.
First page 143
Last page 147
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