Ma-TERN-al Care in Bolsa Chica
By Whitney Thompson & Jeannette Bush
The springtime is a beautiful season in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. The winter rains have passed, flowers are starting to bloom, and the terns are back and loud as ever. Many visitors to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands are greeted by the sharp, grating karr-eek of Elegant Terns (Thalasseus elegans), with additional vocals from about half a dozen other migratory tern species that come to Bolsa Chica to breed.
We would like to extend a Happy Mother’s Day to all the tern moms! Terns are great parents and care for their young from the day they hatch, to even after they learn to fly. Tern chicks are altricial, meaning they need to be fed and cared for by their parents until they grow big enough to hunt on their own. Terns are piscivores, they only eat fish, so they need to be able to fly and dive into the water to get food. Terns are colonial nesters, and they will roost and choose nests near other Terns, usually of the same species, to better improve their chances of survival and reproduction. The loud cries of terns heard across the Reserve is referred to as mobbing. This behavioral adaptation is a defensive response to nearby predators. By mobbing en masse, the noise, and the threat of conflict from hundreds of birds is often enough to scare away even the bravest of predators. For terns, it literally takes a village to raise a child!
The Elegant Tern is the most abundant tern in the spring at Bolsa Chica but one of the least abundant terns is the endangered California Least Tern! If you would like to get involved with helping these little guys, you can join the Eyes On Nest Sites (EONS) monitoring program to collect important data about this endangered species! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.