Coastal Program Helps Birds Take a “Tern” for the Better

The Takeaway: At-risk species on Interstate Island is nesting and breeding again.

Life on Interstate Island is brutal for nesting common terns. It’s hard to find suitable rocky grounds to nest on, and they have to fight through 13,000 breeding pairs of gulls (gulls eat tern eggs and chicks) to get there. A population boom in gulls here and at the handful of other available nesting sites in Minnesota was part of the reason the state designated common terns as “threatened.” Thanks to a partnership that includes Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Lake Superior Coastal Program, life for these birds is improving.

An artificial noise machine playing tern calls brings the common tern population back to the island. Nesting habitat was improved by adding rocks, gravel, and sand, and chicken wire to deter gulls. Interstate Island now has over 200 nesting pairs, more than 20 percent of the estimated pairs in Minnesota. The maintenance program includes monitoring the site, shooing away gulls, banding new chicks, and placing geotags on older birds to track migration patterns. (Original story 2016/Updated 2018 and 2020)

Partners: Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation's Biodiversity Fund, Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s Nongame Wildlife Fund, Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program, Minnesota Ornithological Society, University of Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service