"Threatened Seabirds Get a Life Raft in Maryland"

"Scientists don bike helmets and dodge bird poop to babysit endangered terns out at sea."

"OH1, a crow-sized seabird with tapered wings, a solid black cap, and beak the color of a traffic cone, touched down just off the Maryland coast on April 18, completing a 4,800-kilometer migration from Argentina. The common tern was the first summer resident to arrive at a seasonal colony, and the scientists monitoring the site celebrated. Soon, more terns joined OH1, and nesting season was officially underway.

Then, within days, uninvited guests started showing up. Young gulls of different species began to loiter in the area “just looking for a place to hang out,” says biologist Archer Larned, coastal bird habitat coordinator at the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP). Eventually, more than 100 of the noisy, pushy teenagers threatened to transform the terns’ breeding colony into their own summer crash pad.

Normally, scientists wouldn’t intervene in this kind of avian real estate dispute, but this wasn’t just any tern colony: common terns are listed as endangered in Maryland, and this was one of the birds’ last toeholds in the state. This particular colony also happens to be on an artificial wooden raft that’s about the size of a tennis court."

Ashley Stimpson reports for Atlas Obscura July 4, 2023.

Source: Atlas Obscura, 07/05/2023