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Roseate tern (Sterna dougallii)

Roseate ternNH Conservation Status: Endangered


Federal Status: Endangered


Roseate terns are legally protected in New Hampshire. Possession and take (which includes harming, harassing, injuring and killing) is illegal.


Distribution: Seavey Island, Isles of Shoals. The Roseate tern colony at the Isles of Shoals grew from 1 pair in 2001 to 112 pairs in 2004.


Description: 14-17” in length. Light gray on top, white underneath and a black cap on head. Deeply forked tail and pointed wings are visible during flight. During the breeding season the bill is uniformly black which distinguishes it from other tern species.


Commonly Confused Species: Common tern, Arctic tern and least tern.


Habitat: Roseate terns nest on small rocky or sandy islands, barrier beaches, salt marshes and rarely on the mainland. Most colonies are close to shallow water foraging areas with sandy bottoms, bars, or shoals. In the Northeast, roseate terns nest within common tern colonies and usually select habitat with dense vegetation or the protection of rocks and driftwood.


Life History: Roseate terns return to NH during April and May each year to breed. Each nesting pair lays 2-4 eggs during late May through July and both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs. After approximately 21-27 days the young hatch and approximately 28 days after hatching the young chicks are able to fly. Roseate terns leave NH during August when they migrate south to their wintering grounds.


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