Volume 45, No. 1

Volumes > 37 (2010-->) Volumes 28-37 (2000-09) Volumes 18-27 (1990-99) Volumes 5-17 (1978-89)
a.k.a. Cormorant

Quick Search by author or article title:

Apparent survival of Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus and Sandwich Tern T. sandvicensis at Isles Dernieres Barrier Islands Refuge, Louisiana, USA



1 Nicholls State University, 906 E. 1st Street, Thibodaux, Louisiana 70310, USA (aaron.pierce@nicholls.edu)
2 Current address: Southern Illinois University, 1263 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, USA

Received 4 February 2017, accepted 3 March 2017

Date Pubished: 2017/04/15
Date Online: 2017/04/02

Download PDF


LIECHTY, J.S., MINOR, A.K., NEPSHINSKY, M. & PIERCE A.R. 2017. Apparent survival of Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus and Sandwich Tern T. sandvicensis at Isles Dernieres Barrier Islands Refuge, Louisiana, USA. Marine Ornithology 45: 83-88.

Key words: adult survival, breeding-site fidelity, capture-mark-recapture, Gulf of Mexico, Sternidae


The Isles Dernieres Barrier Island Refuge (IDBIR) in Louisiana constitutes a major colonial waterbird breeding site but is also subject to tremendous rates of land loss and habitat degradation. Restoration projects have been undertaken to sustain breeding waterbird populations on IDBIR, including Royal Terns Thalasseus maximus and Sandwich Terns T. sandvicensis. However, very little is known about the population dynamics of these species in the Gulf of Mexico. The objective of this study was to determine the apparent survival rate and breeding-site fidelity for Royal and Sandwich terns at IDBIR. A capture-mark-resight experiment of breeding adult terns was conducted during 2012-2016, and adult survival rates were estimated using the Cormack-Jolly-Seber model in program MARK. Adult Royal Terns (n = 283) and adult Sandwich Terns (n = 285) were color-banded over a four-year period, with 36% percent of Royal Terns and 23% of Sandwich Terns observed as returnees to IDBIR at least once in a subsequent breeding season. Apparent annual adult survival estimates were 0.68 for both Royal and Sandwich terns, indicating some breeding-site fidelity but also a degree of emigration or higher-than-expected mortality rates. Given that populations at IDBIR increased during the study period, we suspect emigration rather than high mortality rates as the reason for our low apparent survival estimates. These results support the hypothesis that waterbirds breeding in unstable habitats typically demonstrate weaker breeding-site fidelity, but further research is needed to determine factors affecting dispersal.


BUCKLEY, P.A. & BUCKLEY, F.G. 2002. Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus). In: RODEWALD, P.G. (Ed.) The Birds of North America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. [Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/royter1. Accessed 22 February 2017]. doi:10.2173/bna.700.

BURNHAM, K.P. & ANDERSON, D.R. 2002. Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information theoretic approach, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.

COLLINS, C.T. & DOHERTY, P.F. 2006. Survival estimates for Royal Terns in southern California. Journal of Field Ornithology 77: 310-314.

COOCH, E.G., JEFFERIES, R.L., ROCKWELL, R.F. & COOKE, F. 1993. Environmental change and the cost of philopatry: an example in the Lesser Snow Goose. Oecologia 93: 128-138.

COULSON, J.C. 2016. A review of philopatry in seabirds and comparisons with other waterbird species. Waterbirds 39: 229-326.

EFE, M.A., TAVARES, E.S., BAKER, A.J. & BONATTO, S.L. 2009. Multigene phylogeny and DNA barcoding indicate that the Sandwich tern complex (Thalasseus sandvicensis, Laridae, Sternini) comprises two species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 263-267. 

FONTENOT, W.R., CARDIFF, S.W., DEMAY, R.A., ET AL. 2012. A Catalog of Louisiana's Nesting Seabird Colonies. Report Number 34. Thibodaux, LA: Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.

GANTER, B. & COOKE, F. 1998. Colonial nesters in a deteriorating habitat: site fidelity and colony dynamics of Lesser Snow Geese. Auk 115: 642-652.

GREEN, R.D., BAILLIE, S.R. & AVERY, M.I. 1990. Can ringing recoveries help to explain the population dynamics of British terns? The Ring 13: 133-137.

GREENWOOD, P.J. & HARVEY, P.H. 1982. The natal and breeding dispersal of birds. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 13: 1-21.

KHALIL, S.M. & LEE, D.M. 2006. Restoration of Isles Dernieres, Louisiana: some reflections on morphodynamic approaches in the Northern Gulf of Mexico to conserve coastal/marine systems. In: KLEIN, A.H.F., FINKL, C.W., SPERB, R.M., ET AL. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 8th International Coastal Symposium, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 39: 65-71. 

KHALIL, S.M., FINKL, C.W. & RAYNIE, R.C. 2013. Development of new restoration strategies for Louisiana barrier island systems, northern Gulf of Mexico, USA. In: CONLEY, D.C., MASSELINK, G., RUSSELL, P.E. & O'HARE, T.J. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 12th International Coastal Symposium (Plymouth, England), Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 65: 1467-1472.

LEBERG, P.L., DESHOTELS, S., PIUS, S. & CARLOSS, M. 1995. Nest sites of seabirds on dredge islands in coastal Louisiana. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 49: 356-366. 

LEBRETON, J., BURNHAM, K.P., CLOBERT, J. & ANDERSON, D.R. 1992. Modeling survival and testing biological hypotheses using marked animals: a unified approach with case studies. Ecological Monographs 62: 67-118.

LEDWO´N, M., NEUBAUER, G. & BETLEJA, J. 2013. Adult and pre-breeding survival estimates of the Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida breeding in southern Poland. Journal of Ornithology 154: 633-643.

LESTER, G.D., SORENSEN, S.G., FAULKNER, P.L., REID, C.S. & MAXIT, I.E. 2005. Louisiana Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 

LUTMERDING, J.A. & LOVE, A.S. 2016. Longevity Records of North American Birds. Version 2016.1. Laurel, MD: Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory. [Available online at: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/longevity/longevity_main.cfm. Accessed 22 February 2017]. 

MANESS, T. & EMSLIE, S. 2001. An analysis of possible genotoxic exposure in adult and juvenile Royal Terns in North Carolina, USA. Waterbirds 24: 352-360.

MARSHALL, M.R., DIEFENBACH, D.R., WOOD, L.A. & COOPER, R.J. 2004. Annual survival estimation of migratory songbirds confounded by incomplete breeding site-fidelity: study designs that may help. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 27: 59-72.

McBRIDE, R.A. & BYRNES, M.R. 1997. Regional variations in shore response along barrier island systems of the Mississippi River Delta Plain: historical change and future prediction. Journal of Coastal Research 13: 628-655.

McNICHOLL, M.K. 1975. Larid site tenacity and group adherence in relation to habitat. Auk 92: 89-104.

MØLLER, A.P. 1983. Time of breeding, causes of recovery and survival of European Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis). Vogelwarte 32: 123-141.

PENLAND, S., CONNOR, P.F. JR., BEAL, A., FEARNLEY, S. & WILLIAMS, S.J. 2005. Changes in Louisiana's shoreline: 1855–2002. In: FINKL, C.W. & KHALIL, S.M. (Eds.) Saving America's Wetland: Strategies for Restoration of Louisiana's Coastal Wetlands and Barrier Islands Symposium, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 44: 7-39.

RAYNOR, E.J., PIERCE, A.R., OWEN, T.M., LEUMAS, C.M. & ROHWER, F.C. 2013. Short-term demographic responses of a coastal waterbird community after two major hurricanes. Waterbirds 36: 88-93.

RENKEN, R.B. & SMITH, J.W. 1995. Interior Least Tern site fidelity and dispersal. Colonial Waterbirds 18: 193-198.

ROBINSON, R.A. 2010. Estimating age-specific survival rates from historical ringing data. Ibis 152: 651-653. 

SHEALER, D., LIECHTY, J.S., PIERCE, A.R., PYLE, P., PATTEN, M.A. 2016. Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis). In: RODEWALD, P.G. (Ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. [Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/santer1. Accessed 22 February 2017].

SOUTHERN, L.K. & SOUTHERN, W.E. 1982. Effect of habitat decimation on Ring-billed Gull colony- and nest-site tenacity. Auk 99: 328-331.

SPENDELOW, J.A. & PATTON, S.R. 1988. National Atlas of Coastal Waterbird Colonies in the Contiguous United States, 1976–82. Biological Report 88 (5). Washington, DC: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

SWITZER, P.V. 1993. Site fidelity in predictable and unpredictable habitats. Evolutionary Ecology 7: 533-555.

VEEN, J. 1977. Functional and causal aspects of nest distribution in colonies of the Sandwich Tern (Sterna s. sandvicensis Lath.) Behaviour Supplement 20: 1-193.

VISSER, J.M. & PETERSON, G.W. 1994. Breeding populations and colony site dynamics of seabirds nesting in Louisiana. Colonial Waterbirds 17: 146-152.

WALTER, S.T., CARLOSS, M.R., HESS, T.J. & LEBERG, P.L. 2013. Hurricane, habitat degradation, and land loss effects on Brown Pelican Nesting Colonies. Journal of Coastal Research 29: 187-195.

WEIMERSKIRCH, H. 2002. Seabird demography and its relationship with the marine environment. In: SCHREIBER, E.A. & BURGER, J. (Eds.) Biology of Marine Birds. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

WHITE, G.C. & BURNHAM, K.P. 1999. Program MARK: survival estimation from populations of marked animals. Bird Study 46 (Supplement): 120-138.

© Marine Ornithology 2017