Back to top

Ongoing project: Common terns on Oneida Lake

Paul Curtis, Liz Craig, Wynne Hannan (Funded by the New York State DEC) 

The long-term studies on the colonial waterbirds on Oneida Lake, initiated in the 1970s, continued during 2015. Investigators Paul Curtis and Liz Craig worked with intern Wynne Hannan to monitor the nesting activity of Common Terns on Little Island. This year, the team worked to expand the breeding colony onto nearby Wantry Island. Breeding success for Common Terns at Oneida Lake was very poor this field season due to a combination of several factors, including predation and flooding. This year 339 Common Tern nests were initiated on Little Island, with an additional 70 nests on Wantry and 54 on Willard Island. Hatching success was incredibly low this year, and only one tern chick was banded (this is down from 500 to 600+ chicks banded during the past few summers). The team deployed camera traps to determine the cause of nest failure, and observed a Great Blue Heron infiltrating the colony at night. This year in addition to our traditional monitoring, banding, and habitat improvement activities, we continued a study of tern migration to determine where birds nesting on Oneida Lake are migrating and overwintering. We recaptured 7 of 11 terns marked with geolocators (small tracking devices that record bird location using daylight sensors) from 2014. We found that terns breeding on Oneida Lake overwinter in coastal Peru, with a substantial fall stop-over period in Cuba.