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COSEWIC Update Status Report on the Roseate Tern in Canada 1999

Evaluation and Recovery Plan Actions

Many of the actions outlined in the Recovery Plan (see Fig. 2 in Lock et al. 1993) have been implemented over the last three years, and it is imperative that these actions be continued annually.  For example:

Population surveys have been updated by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (Action 1.1.1; Boates and Sam 1996);

Breeding success has been monitored (Action at two essential colonies: The Brothers (D’Eon 1991-1997) and Country Island (Whittam 1997);

Some (17) adult Roseate Terns from Country Island have been banded with colour bands and special “field-readable” bands (Whittam 1997) to help determine dispersal and migration patterns of the Canadian population (Actions 1.1.2 and; and

Breeding habitat has been enhanced by the Nova Scotia DNR (Action 3.1.1), who placed nest boxes on The Brothers Islands, Grassy Island, and Country Island. Providing nest boxes is an easy method of creating cover for Roseate Tern nests, and the degree of cover over a nest has been found to influence egg predation (Whittam 1997).  Boxes have also been placed on Holmes, Westhaver, Wedge and Peter’s Islands by the Nova Scotia Bird Society and local naturalists to provide suitable nesting habitat should Roseates ever re-colonize these sites (Boates and Sam 1996).

On the other hand, many top-priority actions outlined in the Recovery Plan have not been implemented.  For example:

Nothing is known about the productivity of Roseate Terns at Grassy Island (Action, even though it may be one of only two stable colonies in Canada;

Little is known about prey availability and choice at The Brothers, Grassy and Sable Islands, and the locations of feeding sites around the three largest Canadian colonies are unknown (Actions 2.1.3 and;

There is no information about recent changes in the gull population in Atlantic Canada (Action 2.4.1);

Contingency plans for major disruptions such as gull predation, a crash in prey populations, or the effects of environmental contaminants have not been developed (Actions, and;

Very little effort, aside from that expended at The Brothers, has been made to provide predator-free sites for Roseate Terns (Action 3.1.2a).  Gull management that was set to begin in 1993 on Sable Island was blocked by the public response, and no further plans for management at this colony have been made.  Gull management has not been undertaken at the Magdalen Islands (F. Shaffer pers. comm.). As mentioned earlier, CWS has designed a tern restoration plan for Country Island set to begin in the spring of 1998.  This is the first such project to be undertaken since the Recovery Plan was published five years ago.

In conclusion, little substantive progress has been made toward fulfilling the goals of the Roseate Tern Recovery Plan (Lock et al. 1993).  There has been no increase in the number of Roseate Terns breeding in Canada between 1985 and 1997, and data gathered on The Brothers Islands (0.62 fledglings/nest) and Country Island (0.08 fledglings/nest) suggest that productivity of Roseate Terns in Canada is well below the goal of one fledgling per pair per year.  The recovery actions summarized above must be implemented immediately if goals are to be met.