Relatively little is known about birds during the postfledging period when flighted chicks have left the nest and must learn to forage independently. We examined postfledging movements, habitat selection, and colony attendance of Forster's Terns (Sterna forsteri) radio-marked just before they fledged in San Francisco Bay, California. The proportion of the day spent at their natal colony declined as juveniles aged, from 65% at the time of fledging to <5% within two weeks of fledging. Accordingly, the distance postfledging terns were located from their colony increased as they aged, from <500 m within the first week of fledging to >5000 m by their fifth week. Time of day also influenced colony attendance, with older terns spending more time at the colony during nighttime hours (20:00 to 05:00) than during the day (06:00 to 19:00), when they were presumably foraging. Home ranges and core-use areas averaged 12.14 km2 and 2.23 km2, respectively. At each of four spatial scales of analysis, postfledging terns selected salt pond habitats strongly. No other habitat types were selected at any scale, but terns consistently avoided tidal flats and uplands. Terns also avoided open bay habitats at the two largest spatial scales, tidal marsh habitats at the two smallest scales, and sloughs and managed marshes at several scales. Within salt ponds, terns were located closer to salt-pond levees (58 m) than was expected (107 m). Our results indicate that tern chicks disperse from their natal colony within a few weeks of fledging, with older chicks using their natal colony primarily for roosting during the night, and that postfledging terns are highly dependent on salt ponds. ?? 2009 by The Cooper Ornithological Society. All rights reserved.
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Postfledging Forster's Tern movements, habitat selection, and colony attendance in San Francisco Bay