[CT Birds] milford point

Comins, Patrick PCOMINS at audubon.org
Fri May 31 07:39:01 EDT 2013

Actually, the main focus of the story on Chanel 30 were the Roseate Terns that nest out at Falkner Island, which are doing anything but great.  They have declined from 300 pairs to around 30 pairs in just the last 20 years or so and recently lost 2/3 of their nesting habitat from recent storms.  The North Atlantic population of Roseate Terns is federally endangered, and with good reason.   Population models that take productivity and adult survivorship into account paint a grim picture for the persistence of Roseate Terns on the east coast. 

While Common Terns continue to be abundant nesters on Falkner Island, well over 95 percent of their nesting population in the state is concentrated on this eroding island.   Seabird colonies tend to be dynamic and a single colony is always vulnerable to failure and abandonment.  Outside of Falkner, there are very few major nesting colonies remaining n Connecticut, even for Common Terns and all sites are vulnerable to disturbance, predation an often nest loss through tidal flooding.    

Speaking of disturbance, I wasn't aware of many nesting Common Terns at Milford Point, it is mainly Least Terns that nest there, and while they may appear to be thriving, this is a species that is indeed in big trouble in Connecticut.  Numbers are at a fraction of what they were just in the 1990's, having declined by 80% since that time.   Least Terns are listed as a threatened species in Connecticut and for good reason again.  By nature, such birds are colonial nesters, that is they concentrate in a few nesting sites and while they can appear to be abundant at a given location, overall they are very much at risk.   Productivity for Least Terns has been horrible in recent years in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast.  For a species such as this, which tend to be long-lived, populations can appear stable, but when productivity is poor for a sustained interval there can be a sudden population crash when there are insufficient young produced to replace adults that are lost to mortality.    

A good rule of thumb is that if you are being dive bombed by Least Terns, you are too close to their nesting areas and causing disturbance.  This is especially bad this time of year, as they are just setting up breeding areas and will abandon them if there is too much disturbance.   It is especially important this year after the effects of Sandy to give these birds a break, as they are naturally adapted to have boom years after storm events to produce a bunch of young that can perhaps then make it to the next storm event that will knock back coastal vegetation and create more suitable nesting habitat.  There was a special issue of the Connecticut Warbler devoted to the plight of Least Terns in Connecticut a few years back if anyone wants more information, and the State has a great fact sheet on Least Terns: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2723&q=326038

Here is a somewhat old fact sheet on the federally endangered Roseate Tern.  If anything, the situation for Roseate Terns has gotten worse since this was written in 1995. 


Patrick M. Comins
Director of Bird Conservation

Audubon Connecticut
185 East Flat Hill Road
Southbury, CT 06488

Phone: (203)264-5098 x308

Fax: (203)264-6332

pcomins at audubon.org
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From: CTBirds on behalf of Kevindoyle01
Sent: Thursday, May 30, 2013 8:48 PM
To: ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org
Subject: [CT Birds] milford point

After seeing last nights news on the plight of the common tern I can attest at least at MP they are thriving with excellent numbers from my observation and being dive bombed. I spotted at least 8-10 terns sitting on what seemed to be nests and everytime spooked they returned. Also photographed 2 pairs matting (a 1st for me) and numerous males I assume with fish trying to attrack females doing a neat little dance.

Also numerous ruddy turnstones a whimbrel I think, more peeps than one could count and terribly upsetting only 2 piping plovers.

The ospreys are moving along I guess. From what I could tell no chicks just from the way the adults were acting. A lot of moving sticks and material around. Several rouges approached the
nest and were chased away only then did the female sit on the eggs as the male flew off to points unknown.

All in all a spectacular day to spend on the water.

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