Black Tern nesting colony at Schlepp

Black Tern chick_Schlepp East Field

A rare black tern nesting colony was recently discovered in Idaho on the Schlepp property, a 400-acre farmland-to-wetland conservation easement. Ducks Unlimited collaborated with many partners to convert the area to clean feeding habitat for waterfowl in 2011. Black tern colonies are scarce in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game considers them a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”

During a routine monitoring visit to the easement on June 9th, DU Biologist Chris Bonsignore observed 15-20 adult black terns using a relatively small area of the east field. He relayed the following story:

As we approached this area, which is occupied by a fairly dense stand of emergent vegetation, it became clear that the terns were not at all happy with our being there. We had birds hovering just feet above our heads screeching at us incessantly. We backed away and decided to return at another time to document what we suspected to be a nesting colony.
Over the weekend, we returned to the same area and immediately got a repeat treatment from the terns. We spent a few minutes carefully walking through the vegetation and discovered a vacant nesting platform and nearby a single chick moving slowly through the vegetation. I was able to snap photos of the nest and the chick and took some video of the adults as they hovered over the area. I’ve done some cursory research on known nesting colonies for this species in Idaho, and statewide there are a relatively small number of them that have been documented. This is in part why the species is considered by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”
It does appear that in the past one or more colonies have been confirmed in the lower CDA basin, but I don’t know any of the specifics on those just yet. I think it’s fairly safe to say this is the first documented colony on the Schlepp easement and that’s pretty cool. From my perspective, this is just another positive indicator that the restoration project is functioning very well and providing increasing benefits to wildlife in the lower basin.

Video of agitated adult terns:

Information on Black Terns in Idaho:

UPDATE: According an Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist, this is only the second confirmed black tern colony in the Panhandle of Idaho.