By Kyra Young
The Chinese crested tern is an extremely endangered seabird that lives off the coast of Asia. The birds were thought to be extinct between the 1930s and 2000, but a few birds were discovered on the Matsu Islands in numbers that are currently no greater than 50 globally. Now OSU has collaborated with scientists from China to help these birds make a comeback.
Chinese crested terns are very efficient at catching fish and are adept at defending their nests from other birds. This means their rapid decline was most likely due to a combination of a restricted breeding range and widespread over-harvesting of eggs. Law prohibits the collection of any crested tern egg, but that doesn’t always stop hunters.
However, things are now looking up for this brave little bird thanks to a relatively new and innovative project. Researchers from both Oregon and Asia have collaborated to form a new breeding colony for these special birds, luring around 20 breeding pairs to a new colony on the island of Tiedun Dao in Zhejiang Province. To establish the colony, experts in China worked with faculty from OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife last summer to clear the brush from a part of Tiedun Dao. Then they planted 300 decoys on the island, and broadcast vocalizations of both Chinese crested terns and greater crested terns. This summer, the new colony drew at least 43 of the endangered birds, making the project a huge success.
The birds were able to fledge 13 young birds by the end of the first season, which researchers consider big news. If the new colony remains established, the Chinese crested tern could be flourishing again before long.