The birds occupying the island for nesting are Common Terns and Roseate Terns. It is one of the largest colonies for these birds, which is great for the endangered Roseate terns. Let's meet the stars of the island...
|Common terns like this one patrolled the walkways, ready to give you a piece of their mind. Very vocal, sometimes they just held their ground and yelled at you as you walked by-- this was the best case scenario.|
|Outside the door to our room were these little common tern chicks!|
|Common tern chicks are beggars, when they are hungry, they will beg to any adult passing overhead, especially those with a fish in their beak!|
|The young terns varied in size, these birds being on the larger side. the young are quite mobile from just a day after hatching.|
|Clutch sizes also varied in size, from one to sometimes three chicks! A few nests even had 4 or 5 eggs.|
|From the big blind above the dock, we enjoyed views of the birds coming in with fish, having rest from their nests, and taking a chance to preen.|
|Some birds showed variation in plumage, this one a younger bird or perhaps just coming out of breeding plumage. The time were were at the island was past peak, most nests have been made and birds paired up, raising half grown chicks.|
|Always a flurry of activity, all around. Babies being fed, siblings stealing food, adults defending their chicks who are trying to eat.|
|A gorgeous view of the Roseate tern. This birds numbers were decreased from the plume and feather trade. Birds hunted just for their feathers for fashion-- one of the reasons the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was put together, as many birds some of which common today, nearly went extinct! |
Great Gull Island is the largest colony of roseate tern in NY and a large percentage of NY birds nest there.
|Roseates are also smaller than common terns, their voices differ too. The roseate having a higher pitch and squeaky quality while the common terns are more robust in their calls, in comparison.|
|This is why walking around the island is terrifying. I feared every step I took. One had to keep a careful eye on where their foot was about to land as chicks AND eggs are well camouflaged.|
|One of the adult common terns who made their nest on a grassy patch right outside of headquarters.|
|A large clutch- we learned sometimes terns will "dump" eggs in another terns nest. A behavior that is not just limited to cuckoos, cowbirds, and other "nest parasites!" Apparently this is quite common among shore birds and sea birds.|
|Tail longer than wings? Check.|
Almost fully black bill? Check.
Blush hue on chest? Check.
Lighter grey, almost white back? Check.
Smaller in size? Check.
It's a roseate tern!
|A roseate with a popular fish that the terns feast on, the sand lance.|
|One of two chicks lets its parent know that it's hungry!|
|A chick doing its best impression of a rock.|
But seriously, their camouflage is almost too good!
|A not uncommon common tern chick sight. Little beggar.|
|A lot of folks may have never noticed terns, brushing them off as a black, white, and grey "seagull." A closer look reveals thinner, pointed wings, a less chunky body, and a long pointed, and often forked tail.|
|A family life that at times seems not too far off from our own...|
|A common tern shows off its sand lance.|
|Those bright gapes are common in all young birds- a signal for parents on where to put the food! With age the common terns mouth inside will match the orange of the outside, losing that contrasting fuchsia and orange target for fish to be placed.|
|Wing stretching by one of 2 siblings, showing off that transition from downy chick to a juvenile bird.|
|The beautiful roseate, with that rose-colored belly. You can see the whiter, lighter wing tips and overall lightness of this bird compared to the commons below.|
|A sub-adult common tern.|