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Roseate Tern (Sterna Dougallii)

Recovery Strategy for the Roseate Tern

(Sterna Dougallii)

in Canada

October 2006


Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii)


About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”


What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.


What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal SARA agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.  Sections 37–46 of SARA (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/the_act/default_e.cfm) outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were initially listed when SARA came into force.


What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for a lack of full scientific certainty.


The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.


To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/) and the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat    (http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/recovery/default_e.cfm).


Recommended citation:

Environment Canada. 2006. Recovery Strategy for the Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) in Canada . Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada. Ottawa. vii + 37 pp.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/).

Cover illustration: Roseate Tern by Diane Pierce © 1995

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Programme de rétablissement de la Sterne de Dougall (Sterna dougallii) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2006. All rights reserved.
ISBN 0-662-44223-7
Cat. no. En3-4/4-2006E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.



This recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the Roseate Tern. Environment Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the Roseate Tern, as required under the Species at Risk Act. This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new findings and revised objectives.

This recovery strategy will be the basis for one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation and recovery of the species. The Minister of the Environment will report on progress within five years.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of the Environment invites all responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Environment Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Roseate Tern and Canadian society as a whole.



Environment Canada (Atlantic Region)
Government of New Brunswick
Government of Nova Scotia
Government of Québec



The Strategy was prepared by Andrew G. Horn and Andrew W. Boyne.



We would like to acknowledge the significant effort of the members of the Canadian Roseate Tern Recovery Team:

  • Andrew W. Boyne, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service (Chair), Atlantic Region
  • J. Sherman Boates, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
  • Ted C. D’Eon, Local steward, Pubnico, Nova Scotia
  • Marty L. Leonard, Dalhousie University
  • François Shaffer, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Québec Region
  • Rebecca M. Whittam, Bird Studies Canada


We would also like to thank Marty Leonard and Sherman Boates, for information and for feedback on various drafts, and David Currie and Ken Gregoire of the Nova Scotia Bird Society for discussions and information on various points. The environmental assessment group of Environment Canada, Atlantic Region provided wording for sections related to decision making and planning. The cover illustration was provided by the artist, Diane Pierce. Thanks also to Canadian Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Section for their advice and Canadian Wildlife Service Recovery Section for their advice and efforts in preparing this document for posting.



A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Roseate Tern. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. The reader should refer to the following sections of the document in particular: Potential management impacts on other species, Species information, Ecological role, and Recommended approach / scale for recovery.



SARA defines residence as: a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating [Subsection 2(1)].

Residencedescriptions , or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/plans/residence_e.cfm



The Roseate Tern is a migratory bird covered under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government.  The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. The Roseate Tern was listed as Endangered under SARA in June 2003.  Canadian Wildlife Service – Atlantic Region, Environment Canada led the development of this Recovery Strategy.  All other responsible jurisdictions reviewed and approved the strategy (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Québec). The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41). It was developed in cooperation or consultation with:

  • All provincial jurisdictions in which the species occurs - New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Québec
  • Aboriginal groups - the Nova Scotia Native Council, the Acadia First Nation, the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq
  • Environmental non-government groups - the Sable Island Preservation Trust, the Nova Scotia Bird Society, the Mahone Islands Conservation Association, Association québécoise des groupes d'ornithologues, Comité ZIP des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Attention Fragîles, and
  • Industry stakeholders - Guysborough County Regional Development Authority, Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board
  • Landowners - Private landowners, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.

This first recovery strategy for a migratory bird posted on the SARA Public Registry identifies what is now understood as nesting critical habitat under SARA.

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