Sterna dougallii - Montagu, 1813
Roseate Tern
Other Common Names: Trinta-Réis-Róseo
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Sterna dougallii Montagu, 1813 (TSN 176891)
French Common Names: Sterne de Dougall
Spanish Common Names: Charrán Rosado
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105391
Element Code: ABNNM08060
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 10607

© Bruce A. Sorrie

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Charadriiformes Laridae Sterna
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Sterna dougallii
Taxonomic Comments: Very rarely hybridizes with S. hirundo (Zingo et al. 1994, Gochfeld et al. 1998).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 10Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 26Feb1997
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Nests along coasts nearly worldwide; rarely abundant; nesting populations in North America and the Caribbean are very small and localized; threats include habitat loss and disturbance, predation, egg collection (locally), and competition from expanding gull populations.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2N,N3B (16Jan1998)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N1B,N1M (17Nov2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Connecticut (S1B), Delaware (SNA), Florida (S1), Maine (S2B), Maryland (SXB), Massachusetts (S2B,S3N), New Hampshire (SHB), New Jersey (S1B,S1N), New York (S1B), North Carolina (SHB), Rhode Island (SHB,S1N), Virginia (SHB)
Canada Newfoundland Island (SNA), Nova Scotia (S1B), Quebec (S1)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: Subspecies dougallii is listed by USFWS as Endangered in Bermuda, Canada, and the U.S. south to North Carolina; Threatened elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere and adjacent oceans, including Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands (Federal Register, 2 November 1987).
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R5 - Northeast
Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: E (05Jun2003)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Endangered (26Apr2009)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for designation: In Canada, this colonial species is part of the northeastern population that breeds on small islands off the Atlantic coast from the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence south to Long Island, New York. It winters in South America, from Colombia to eastern Brazil. The most recent (2007) population estimate for Canada was 200 mature individuals occupying 7 locations (approximately 98% are in only 2 locations). The number of mature birds has been fairly stable over the past decade despite recovery efforts. Rescue through immigration of birds from the United States is unlikely since the species is endangered in New England and the population there is also small (circa 7600 mature individuals in 2007). The primary factors limiting the population are predation of eggs, young and adults, low adult survival rates, and stochastic events (e.g. hurricanes).

Status history: Designated Threatened in April 1986. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 1999. Endangered status re-examined and confirmed in October 1999 and in April 2009.

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Widespread in Atlantic, Indian, and southwestern Pacific oceans. BREEDING: locally along Atlantic coast of North America, mainly from Quebec to New York; also Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys, Bahamas (Sprunt 1984), and other islands of West Indies, islands off Venezuela, and islands off the northern coast of Honduras and Belize (Spendelow and Patton 1988). In northeastern North America, over 90% of the breeding population is concentrated into a few colonies between Cape Cod and Long Island. Also widespread in Old World. NON-BREEDING: in Americas, primarily in northern coastal South America.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Population Size: 10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: 34,000-40,000 pairs worldwide, concentrated in a few large colonies. Subspecies DOUGALLII: Breeding population in northeastern North America was estimated at 6200-6600 birds in the early 1980s. In 1989, the northeastern population was stable, with 3188 pairs at 18 sites (84% of the pairs at 2 sites) (USFWS 1990); in 1991, there were 3611 pairs in 18 colonies in the northeastern U.S., mostly in New York (Great Gull Island) and Massachusetts (Bird Island in Buzzards Bay), with 185 pairs in Connecticut and 128 pairs in Maine. In 1992, estimated number of breeding pairs in the Northeast was 2898 (End. Sp. Tech. Bull. 18:14). Breeding population in Florida in the early 1980s was not greater than a few hundred; about 2500 pairs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 1000-2000 pairs in small colonies in the Bahamas. Ehrlich et al. (1992) stated that the combined U.S. and Canadian population was 6650 birds, with another 6000 birds in the Caribbean. Total breeding population in Canada was 100-125 pairs in the mid-1980s (Kirkham and Nettleship, 1986 COSEWIC report).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Initially decimated by plume hunters; subsequent declines occurred primarily as a result of loss of nesting habitat to development, competition with and predation by gulls (which became more common on nesting islands after lighthouses were automated), disturbance by humans (especially in the Caribbean), and depleted fish populations. Egg collection, tourists, and rat predation are threats to the Caribbean population (van Halewyn and Norton 1984).

Short-term Trend Comments: Population trends in the Caribbean region are uncertain (van Halewyn and Norton 1984). In northwestern Europe, declined over past several decades (Evans 1984). See USFWS (1987) for population estimates and trends.

Long-term Trend:  
Long-term Trend Comments: Breeding habitat has been lost due to gull encroachment.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Locate breeding colonies and other potential breeding locations.

Protection Needs: Declare breeding sites as "Critical Habitat"; post and fence in breeding areas.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Widespread in Atlantic, Indian, and southwestern Pacific oceans. BREEDING: locally along Atlantic coast of North America, mainly from Quebec to New York; also Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys, Bahamas (Sprunt 1984), and other islands of West Indies, islands off Venezuela, and islands off the northern coast of Honduras and Belize (Spendelow and Patton 1988). In northeastern North America, over 90% of the breeding population is concentrated into a few colonies between Cape Cod and Long Island. Also widespread in Old World. NON-BREEDING: in Americas, primarily in northern coastal South America.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CT, DE, FL, MA, MDextirpated, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VA
Canada NF, NS, QC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001)*, Middlesex (09007), New Haven (09009), New London (09011)*
FL Collier (12021), Monroe (12087), Sarasota (12115)
MA Barnstable (25001), Bristol (25005), Dukes (25007), Essex (25009)*, Nantucket (25019), Plymouth (25023)
MD Worcester (24047)*
NC Carteret (37031)*, Dare (37055)*
NH Rockingham (33015)
NJ Ocean (34029)
NY Nassau (36059), Queens (36081), Suffolk (36103)
RI Newport (44005)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Charles (01090001)+*, Cape Cod (01090002)+, Narragansett (01090004)+*, Pawcatuck-Wood (01090005)+*, Quinnipiac (01100004)+*, Saugatuck (01100006)+*
02 Northern Long Island (02030201)+, Southern Long Island (02030202)+, Long Island Sound (02030203)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+*
03 Pamlico Sound (03020105)+*, White Oak River (03020301)+*, Florida Bay-Florida Keys (03090203)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Myakka (03100102)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A gray, white, and black seabird with a mostly black bill.
General Description: Breeding adult has pale gray upperparts, a black cap and nape, and white underparts (slight pinkish cast visible in good light); bill is mostly black, with a variable amount of red at the base; tail is white, deeply forked, and extends well beyond the wings when the bird stands with the wings folded; legs and feet are bright red-orange. Juvenile has a brownish cap that extends over the forehead; mantle looks coarsely scaled; lower back is barred with black. First-summer bird has a white forehead. Attains full adult plumage by the second winter (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from common, arctic, and Forster's terns in being paler overall; wings are shorter than in common and arctic terns (hence tail extends farther beyond wing tips when perched). Bill color is not always a good character for distinguishing roseate tern from common tern (Raffaele 1983).
Reproduction Comments: Eggs are laid mostly in May-June in the northern part of the range, Florida, and the Bahamas; youngest breeders may lay into July. Clutch size usually is 1-2. Incubation, by both sexes (mainly female), lasts 21-26 days. Young are tended by both parents, fly at 22-29 days, dependent for at least 6-8 weeks after fledging. First breeds at 2-4 years. In a two-year New York study, fish abundance affected reproductive performance (Safina et al. 1988).
Ecology Comments: Predation does not appear to be major factor limiting productivity in the northeastern U.S. but apparently has resulted in concentration of breeding colonies in the few remaining predator-free sites available (Northeast Roseate Tern Recovery Team 1988). In Connecticut, minimum annual survival rate of breeding adults was about 0.75; this is relatively low among marine birds (Spendelow and Nichols 1989). Significant predators on eggs and chicks include land crabs in Puerto Rico (Burger and Gochfeld 1988; Condor 94:712-719).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Arrives in the northeastern U.S. late April-early May. Large numbers congregate at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (Massachusetts) in August-early September; most have left the northeastern U.S. by mid-September (migrate in September-October through the West Indies to northern South America). Caribbean birds also are migratory, arriving in late April and departing between September and November (Nisbet 1992). One-year-olds (and some two-year-olds) summer in the south (do not migrate).
Marine Habitat(s): Near shore
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, Lagoon, River mouth/tidal river, Tidal flat/shore
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Sand/dune
Habitat Comments: Seacoasts, bays, estuaries. In North America, forages offshore and roosts in flocks near tidal inlets late July to mid-September (Nisbet 1992). Nests on islands on sandy beaches, open bare ground, grassy areas; on Atlantic coast of North America, usually under or adjacent to objects that provide cover or shelter (including artificial sites such as tires placed on shores); primarily on small islands, often (exclusively in the northeastern U.S.) with common tern. In Puerto Rico, in more open areas (Burger and Gochfeld 1988), even on gravel roofs in the Florida Keys. In the Azores, nesting occurred in areas of high relief and/or tall vegetation (Ramos and del Nevo 1995). Has attempted, with little success, to nest in salt marshes (Matthews and Moseley 1990). See Spendelow and Patton (1988) for further details on nesting.
Adult Food Habits: Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Piscivore
Food Comments: Feeds on small (usually 7-15 cm long) schooling marine fishes obtained by plunging into water while flying. Sand lance is primary food in many areas in northeastern U.S. (Buckley and Buckley 1984). Usually feeds over open water, often in tidal channels, tide rips, drift lines, or over shoals/sandbars. Some Massachusetts birds regularly feed up to 20 km from breeding colony. May gather where large fishes force smaller fishes to the surface, but in the vicinity of Long Island (New York and Connecticut), foraging success and foraging activities were depressed by the presence and foraging activities of bluefish (Safina 1990).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 39 centimeters
Weight: 110 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Has been trapped for sale in food markets in northern South America; extent of trapping apparently limited at present time (Trull 1988).
Management Summary
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Management Requirements: A high priority is to increase the number of favorable breeding sites such that the population is less concentrated that at present; this involves habitat management and control of gulls and other predators; programs are underway in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York (Nisbet 1992). Gull control has been beneficial in Maine (Buckley and Buckley 1984) and Massachusetts. See Northeast Roseate Tern Recovery Team (1988) for gull control information and recovery plan. See also Buckley and Buckley (1984) and USFWS (1987) for a discussion of conservation needs. See Minsky (1981) for a discussion of tern management on Cape Cod.

Readily uses artificially created nest sites (half-buried baskets, buckets, tires, or propped-up driftwood, boards, or rocks), often with good reproductive success (Spendelow and Patton 1988).

Monitoring Requirements: See Spendelow et al. (1994) for information on loss rates of color bands applied to adults in the western North Atlantic. See Burger et al. (1995) for information on colony differences in response to trapping.
Biological Research Needs: Information on winter ecology/mortality is needed, as is research on the potential for captive propagation.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Colonial Seabirds

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Breeding Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding , or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Mapping Guidance: Map foraging areas as separate polygons if they are separated from the breeding colony by areas simply flown over on commuting routes.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Where colonies are closer than 5 kilometers, separate occurrences may be created if research shows little genetic mixing between colonies.
Separation Justification: Occurrences include nesting and foraging areas, but occurrence separations are based on nesting areas (i.e., distance between nesting areas, regardless of foraging locations). Hence, different occurrences may overlap.

Occurrences are not based on discrete populations or metapopulations. Instead, the separation distance is arbitrarily small such that occurrences are of of practical size for data management purposes.

Evidence from a number of species of seabirds indicates that even though the 'home ranges' of individual nesting seabirds may be immense when foraging trips are taken into account, little movement or feeding overlap may occur between nearby colonies. For example, Thick-billed Murres may commute up to 170 kilometers one way on a feeding trip from the colony, but birds from a colony only 8 kilometers away may forage in a completely different direction; even birds from different sub-colonies only 1.5 kilometers apart mostly fed in completely separate areas (Gaston and Hipfner 2000).

Most seabirds have strong breeding site fidelity; e.g., Thick-billed Murres (Gaston and Hipfner 2000, Gaston et al. 1994), Gray-backed Tern (Mostello et al. 2000), Red-footed Booby (Schreiber et al. 1996).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 2 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Somewhat arbitrary, but generally very conservative for this group, many members of which travel long distances to foraging grounds.
Date: 20Oct2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Feeding area, Loafing site, Roosting site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of flocks of nonbreeding birds (including historical), including nonbreeding birds within the breeding season and breeding individuals outside the breeding season; and potential recurring presence at a given location. Normally only areas where concentrations greater than 25 birds regularly occur for more than 20 days per year would be deemed EOs; the number of individuals may be reduced for very rare species. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance arbitrary; defined this small to aid in conservation planning. Sites more than 10 kilometers apart may be joined as one occurrence if research shows that predominantly the same individuals are using both sites.
Date: 07Mar2001
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 08Mar1996
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Jennings, R., K. Schneider, and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 30Apr1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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