Posts Tagged ‘roseate terns’

More tern chicks are fledging with each passing day here on Metinic!   It is great to walk out into the colony and see the chicks take off into the air rather than running to the tall grass for cover, especially after a couple of weeks of limited food coming in.  Some of the older chicks are starting to venture out into the intertidal and over the water; we even saw a fledgling way down at the very southern end of the island when we walked down there one afternoon.


A fledgling watching us carefully.  It took off as soon as we got closer.

The chicks aren’t the only ones venturing out.  This week during a provisioning stint, Mark spotted a roseate tern resting on a rock in the intertidal!  While this tern appeared to only be passing through and not a resident, this is still exciting because they are federally endangered, and so it is nice to see that they are at least in the area.  This brings our island species list up to 96!


The roseate tern Mark spotted on the right, and a common tern on the left.  Roseate terns have a longer bill and tail than the Arctic and common terns.  Their bill is also mostly black and their body is paler in color than the other terns.

Earlier in the week we spent an afternoon searching for Leach’s storm-petrel burrows.  Previously, we had been doing this by smelling holes along the old rock walls as the petrel burrows give off a distinct scent that is described to be like old musty books.  After reading on a previous blog that the petrels could also be found by playing their call from our phones and listening for a response from the birds, we were able to find even more burrows.  So, a big thank you to our friends on Petit Manan Island for that suggestion, it seems to work well!  If you’re curious what a Leach’s storm-petrel sounds like, here is a link to website with audio recordings of them: Click here to get to the website.  We do have petrels burrowing underneath our house, so it is funny to hear this at night and periodically during the day!


One of the entrances to a Leach’s storm-petrel burrow along the old rock wall. 

I’ll leave you with a fun thing happened this week as I was walking along the shore back to the house from checking burrows.  I came across a plastic water bottle that looked like it had something inside it, and to my surprise, it was a message in a bottle!  It’s true that you never know what you’ll find working out on the Maine coastal islands!  I will email whoever sent it out to let them know where we found it!




Other than our continued provisioning, productivity, and guillemot burrow checks, that’s about it for this week!

– Helen

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The infamous Roseate Tern!

There are currently four colonies with a total of 151 breeding pairs in the state of Maine. On Petit Manan alone, it’s been about a year since the last roseate tern was sighted and even longer since they last successfully nested.


A Roseate tern nest sharing a space with a Puffin egg.

Roseate terns have either a full black or mostly black bill, a whiter coloration and considerably longer tail feathers then wing feathers in comparison to the arctic and common terns. They tend to nest along the vegetation line close to rocks of the intertidal zone. If not careful, too much activity could cause them to abandon their nests considering their sensitivity to human presence.

This year, we have two confirmed nesting pairs and another possible sighting further along the intertidal. The two nesting pairs each have two healthy chicks which we hope will fledge successfully. Their chicks have black legs and dark mottled down with fine black spots as opposed to the common and arctic tern chicks which usually have orange or pink legs with brighter down and black spots.


A Roseate Tern chick being banded by our island supervisor Christa.


An Arctic Tern chick being banded by my coworker Jordan.

Hopefully this means more nesting Roseate terns on Petit Manan island in years to come.



Can you identify which of these birds are Roseate Terns? I’ll give you one hint, there are three in this picture.

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