Monday, June 18, 2012

California Least Tern, Sternula antillarum var brownii

California Least Tern, Sternula antillarum variety brownii, is the smallest tern found in San Diego, at about 22 cm in length.  These tiny little birds glide on the coastal breezes, seeming to hover until they dive at great speed into the shallow waters along the shoreline or in river estuaries to snatch minows and other small fish from the surface.  These lovely birds are under habitat pressure in their native Southern California, San Francisco Bay and Northwestern Mexico, where much of the beach has been utilized for human developments.  The California Least Tern (variety brownii) was listed as an endangered species in 1972 with only 600 pairs in existence.  That population has since rebounded to around 4,500 pairs.  This one here is nesting in a little patch in the sand at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Imperial Beach, California.  They appear to have recently laid eggs.  This particular nesting area is subject to floods, high tides and shifting sands, resulting in varying levels of nesting success from year to year.  From the looks of it, this year is turning out to be a pretty solid year.

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