Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Since its listing in 1987, the nesting population of roseate terns on the northeast coast had increased slightly to more than 3,000 pairs, but then declined by nearly 700 pairs in 1992 due to unknown causes. Disease, pollution, storms, or predation could inflict irreparable damage on the population, 90 percent of which nests at only two colonies. Competition for nesting space with an expanding population of gulls has forced roseate terns to nest in concentrated colonies or attempt to nest on unsuitable islands. Unidentified mortality factors away from the nesting grounds, presumably in wintering areas along the northern coast of South America, are exceptionally high and offset the reproductive success at managed nesting colonies. About 40 percent of the birds nest in New York, mainly on Great Gull Island, a small island to the east of Long Island.
Selected islands are being restored as tern breeding grounds, in part by controlling the gulls that prey on tern eggs and compete with roseate terns for nesting space. In addition, structures such as open-sided nesting boxes have been used to increase fledging success where predatory birds are a problem. Signs and fencing have been used to deter human disturbance at nesting sites.
In New York, the top recovery priority is to reestablish a colony at Gardiner's Point Island, about 6 miles from the major colony at Great Gull Island. Other islands at Shennecock and Moriches Inlets are secondary targets for restoration. Monitoring nesting sites and long-term research of population dynamics at the major colonies must continue. A well-planned survey to locate wintering grounds, followed by evaluation of mortality factors, is essential.
The State of New York received $6,000 in both FY 1991 and FY 1992. Some of the funds were used to monitor tern nesting populations. The remainder was allocated to the Great Gull Island project of the American Museum of Natural History for gull removal and restoration of the tern colony at Gardiner's Point Island.
Department of the Navy: After completing a survey of the water around Gardiner's Point Island (which is used by the Navy as a target range) for possible ordnance, the Navy authorized use of the island for the tern program.
New York Department of Environmental Conservation: This State agency is compiling data on nesting populations and will contract for habitat and population restoration management at Gardiner's Point Island and other islands at Shennecock and Moriches Inlets.
American Museum of Natural History (Great Gull Island Project and Rutgers University): The Museum is conducting research and monitoring roseate tern populations.
Plan approved 3/20/89.