Little terns of Texel island

Little tern

Translated from Staatsbosbeheer in the Netherlands:

The number of little terns, breeding on De Hors (Texel) is bigger than ever. 202 nests have been counted. Also on this sandy plain, some ringed plovers, and very probably one or more Kentish plovers, nest.

Little terns of Texel in 2016: here.

Sandwich terns of Griend island: here.

9 thoughts on “Little terns of Texel island


    The Wichita Eagle

    It started with small gifts.

    After flying nearly 700 miles from the Gulf of Mexico last month, six boy least terns in Wichita captured the eyes of six girl least terns.

    Then, the boys went fishing.

    One by one they caught tiny minnows in their beaks and circled and dived in flight above their lady loves — presenting fish, letting the girls know they could provide.

    Last week at the Lafarge Aggregates plant in west Wichita, the six girls said “kip-kip-kip … Z-R-E-E-T!”

    That was enough.

    On Wednesday morning, Charlie Cope, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks district biologist, arrived at the construction company’s plant and pounded in posts with signs reading “Endangered Least Tern Nesting Area.”

    The only problem is that the love birds chose a sand pit scheduled to be worked this week by Lafarge.

    Lafarge employees had scraped the sand bar a few weeks ago to get ready for the sand evacuation.

    To the terns, the spot was ideal — no flooding, no vegetation.

    In the last few days, the 8- to 9-inch birds with the distinctive black “crown” on their heads and snow-white bellies have scraped small holes in the sand and are currently in the process of laying eggs.

    Because the least terns have been listed by the federal government as endangered, the birds will have their privacy, for now.

    Lafarge plant officials did not return phone calls about the birds, and it is unknown how much money the delay will cost the company.

    Cope said Wednesday it normally takes 22 days for the brown mottled eggs to hatch — and an additional 22 days for the chicks to start flying on their own.

    Wildlife officials are keeping the nesting spot secret to protect the birds.

    Native to the Mississippi River and its tributaries, least terns once nested on many miles of open sandbars along the Great Plains.

    But in the late 19th century, the birds’ habitat became threatened. Up until 1918, hat manufacturers paid 12 cents for every tern hide, favored for their distinctive black-and-white appearance. That was when the birds’ population was nearly wiped out.

    Throughout much of the 20th century, flood control projects and channelization destroyed much of the birds’ habitat.

    But slowly, the birds are beginning to make a comeback.

    Cope said there are roughly 12,000 of the birds nationally. But the birds can easily be threatened by weather, predators and accidents.

    Heat, like the high temperatures Wichita has experienced in recent days, can literally cook the tiny eggs in minutes, said Nathan Ofsthun, a volunteer naturalist at the Great Plains Nature Center.

    “The least terns will cool the eggs off by fluffing their feathers or sitting above the eggs, shading them, or even sitting in water and returning to the eggs to keep them cool,” Ofsthun said.

    In recent years, least terns have nested near the Arkansas River in Wichita, the Jeffrey Energy Center northwest of Topeka, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near Stafford and along the Cimarron River in far western Kansas.

    Earlier this month, another small colony of least terns was spotted nesting along the Kansas River.

    The Wichita colony is traditionally one of the best-producing colonies for the endangered birds, Cope said.

    The federal and state government looks seriously at anyone threatening or endangering the birds — to do so carries a fine of up to $100,000 and three years in jail.

    Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or


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