Colony site selection and abandonment by least terns Sterna antillarum in New Jersey, USA

Biological Conservation
By:  and 



To develop habitat and management procedures to protect declining populations of least terns, colony site selection and abandonment by this species was investigated at 26 sites in New Jersey. Multivariate analysis was used to compare (1) colony sites to adjacent unused areas, (2) those located on beaches to dredge spoil sites and (3) abandoned to occupied colony sites.


The presence of shells or pebbles in a sandy substrate, and short, sparse vegetation, were the habitat characteristics of New Jersey least tern colony sites most strongly correlated with colony site selection. Dredge spoil sites had significantly greater evidence of human disturbance, distance to water, and proportion of coarse particles in the substrate than beach sites. These differences may have contributed to the smaller colonines and greater colony turnover rates at spoil sites relative to beach sites. Overall, abandoned colony site characteristics did not differ significantly from occupied sites. However, human disturbance, over-growth of vegetation, predation, and flooding were all prevalent at colonies prior to abandonment. The results of this study suggest techniques for habitat management of both least and little terns.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Colony site selection and abandonment by least terns Sterna antillarum in New Jersey, USA
Series title Biological Conservation
DOI 10.1016/0006-3207(86)90031-5
Volume 37
Issue 1
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher Society for Conservation Biology
Publisher location Barking, Essex England
Description 21 p.
First page 1
Last page 21
Country United States
State New Jersey
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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