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Bob Pelkey | profile | all galleries >> Birds Making a Living in Florida >> Least Tern tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

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Least Tern



LEAST TERNS BREED AT LOVERS KEY STATE PARK (FLORIDA USA)

What is certainly to the Least Tern's advantage for survival is their numbers. It is noted on a sign at the beach access that the terns have been observed attempting to feed fish to decoys established to attract them to nest.

The decoys in place in the 2008 season included the Black Skimmer, but this species has not nested at the park. Park Services Specialist, Brie Ochoa, has written that the American Oystercatcher has been observed to breed in the park in 2008, but the nest was depredated by scavenging raccoons. She has also commented that the Least Tern colony exceeded 200 breeding pairs in the 2008 season as documented by park volunteer, Pam Jones-Morton, whose efforts benefit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the International Shorebird Society, and other agencies that request Pam's data.

An early hurricane would be devastating to the Least Tern colony as the birds nest so closely to the surf. The terns have developed a very aggressive defensive tactic in dive bombing their predators, not just in their flight, but through defecation. I've been crapped on quite a few dozen times while observing the birds seen here, but it's been worth it. I've been extremely fortunate to have kept the lens glass clean although the lens and camera itself need a good scrubbing. Biting ants were occasionally an annoyance as well. I learned that they tend to congregate where there are patches of wood debris on the beach.

These images are not in precise chronological order as I revisit large files from numerous trips to the nesting area and with a continuing effort to make this gallery visually appealing. From a few thousand photographs I've taken of the Least Tern is the creation of this gallery.

I greatly anticipate the return of the Least Terns from Argentina where they migrated south after breeding at Lovers Key State Park.

*****

I first observed the return of the Least Tern on 20 April 2009 at my residence and on San Carlos Bay. A goal in 2009 will be to document the mating behavior of the species at Lovers Key State Park which thus far has proven to be quite interesting. The male will bring a fish to the female in its beak. The male will be slightly behind the female and thrash its head and fish from left to right as many as a couple dozen times. The female may back up slightly into the male and place her primary feathers under his seemingly to entice the male to allow the female to have the fish. Once he gives it to her, she will allow mating to take place.

*****

In 2010, I have found the Least Tern in relative abundance at Little Estero Lagoon south of Fort Myers Beach. I noted a half dozen fledglings being fed by their parents. It's a treat to observe this species again.

The thumbnails below may be clicked on to enlarge, and I also invite you to visit my wildlife blog by simply clicking here.
Each page in this gallery, when full, contains 50 images.
The current representative image for this gallery is on page 5.

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