, Derry, New Hampshire


December 22, 2013

State works to protect terns on Isles of Shoals

CONCORD — The Isles of Shoals is home to the largest colony of breeding terns in the Gulf of Maine. Common terns (state threatened), roseate terns (state and federally endangered) and Arctic terns all migrate to the Isles of Shoals of off the New Hampshire coast to nest and raise their young each year.

A special fundraising effort is now underway through the N.H. Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program to embark on new research using nanotag telemetry to learn about the foraging behavior of terns and how it affects their ability to nest and raise young.

The Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is seeking public support for this research effort. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, 03301. Make checks payable to NH Fish and Game/Nongame Program. For a print-and-mail contribution form, visit

The tern colony on Seavey Island at the Isles of Shoals consists of common terns, roseate terns and Arctic terns. Terns arrive in New Hampshire during April and May each year to breed.

Each nesting pair lays two to four eggs during late May through July. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs for approximately 21 to 27 days. Chicks are born with downy feathers, but are dependent on adults for protection and food. They cannot fly for approximately the first 28 days of life, therefore are very susceptible to predation. All terns leave New Hampshire in August to migrate south to their wintering grounds.

The goals of the Tern Restoration Project are to protect, manage and enhance the breeding populations of common, roseate and Arctic terns nesting at the Isles of Shoals. Since restoration efforts began in 1997, the number of common terns nesting on the islands has increased from six pairs to more than 2,600 in 2013. In addition, since the first pair of roseate terns nested in 2001, their numbers have grown to 59 pairs last year.

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