Roseate Terns to nest on Long Key

Debra Hess
Yankee Freedom II Naturalist

Roseate Terns nesting Recording Roseate tern decoys

For the past three years in a cooperative effort from the National Park Service (NPS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Roseate tern decoys and a taped recording of these terns are set up on Long Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Debra Hess

Recording of Roseate Terns nesting Recording of Roseate Terns nesting

Recording Equipment for Roseate Terns Nesting Decoy Equipment for Roseate Terns Nesting Decoy

Last season netted twenty-three pairs of Roseate Terns and two pairs of Bridled Terns (first ever recorded nesting of Bridled Terns in the Dry Tortugas). Roseate and Bridled Terns are pelagic species often seen in offshore (Gulf Stream) waters south of Dry Tortugas National Park. Roseate Terns have nested in the Tortugas in the past. Later this summer, I’ll post an update on this summer’s activities on Long Key.

Masked Booby Bird Two Masked Booby Birds

Masked Booby birds are having a record-breaking breeding season in the Tortugas – on several occasions over 70 birds have been observed on Hospital Key. More information about Masked Booby’s can be found in an earlier blog entry on this species. The Yankee Freedom II will stop at Hospital Key to observe Masked Booby’s on the return trip to Key West from Fort Jefferson – just ask your captain.

Sooty Terns Sooty Terns at the Dry Tortugas

Sooty Terns at Fort Jefferson Sooty Terns at Dry Tortugas National Park

Sooty Tern chicks are getting big – the first hatchlings will be flying soon. The Sooty colony on Bush Key had a failed breeding season last year – bait fish – food for Sooty’s were not readily available in the Gulf Stream. This season finds adults and chicks healthy – apparently plenty of bait fish available – but the colony itself is approximately 20,000-25,000 birds. Last season’s failure and hurricanes in recent years have reduced the population downward from historical numbers around 100,000 and even as high as 150,000 birds.

Noddy Terns Noddy Terns with Egg

Noddy Tern with Chick Noddy Tern with Baby Chick

Noddy Terns are laying eggs – just a few chicks were observed on this most recent visit – the Noddy’s are nesting late this season and the number of breeding birds present seems low.

Frigate Birds Frigate Birds

Magnificent Frigate birds are still nesting and chicks are getting older and larger. The peak period of nesting seems to have passed but young chicks are present.

Migration is reaching its peak in Dry Tortugas National Park. The last week of April was busy for bird watchers – notable species include Magnolia, Blackpoll, Black Throated Blue, Wilson’s Warbler, Ovenbird, Swainson’s, Wood Thrush, Indigo Buntin, Blue Grosbeak, Bobolink, and Common Nighthawk. An immature Red-Footed Booby, roosting among the Frigatebirds, was observed by Larry Manfreidi.
Thursday, May 8th starts the Homer, Alaska Shorebird Festival. While Yankee Freedom II customers enjoy pristine ocean eaters and the warm tropical sun, I’ll be donning all the clothing I can fit onto every inch of my body. At last report, five species of Geese including Snow and Emperor were observed in one location and of course our yearly search for the King Eider.

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