In 1997, NH Audubon pioneered a tern restoration attempt at the Isles of Shoals using non-lethal gull control methods. Terns historically nested at the Isles of Shoals but had been driven out by nesting gulls which out-compete terns for nesting space on bare, rocky islands. NH Audubon, with support from NH Fish & Game and other partners, implemented a gull control plan on Seavey Island that involved scare tactics to drive away gulls before they could nest on the island and keep them away during the nesting season. In conjunction, decoys were placed on the island and sounds of a tern colony broadcast over speakers using methods designed by Steve Kress.
Terns returned faster than anyone expected with 6 pairs of Common Terns nesting that first year. The colony increased quickly in size and in 2003 it stabilized at around 2500 Common Tern pairs. Rosteate Terns first nested in 2001 and their number has fluctuated over the years. NH Audubon and graduate student, Susie Burbidge, conducted a study of Roseate Tern habitat use on Seavey Island. Although fairly far south for Arctic Terns, a few pair began nesting in 2002 and 5-10 pair typically nest on the island.
After successfully reintroducing nesting terns to the Isle of Shoals, NHA also studied the terns’ feeding habits to try and identify important food sources along the mainland coast.
The Nongame & Endangered Wildlife Program at NH Fish & Game is now responsible for the management of the tern colony. Visit their project page for more information.
Project Leader: Diane De Luca