Trying to encourage Least Terns to nest…

A few years ago, island residents could not walk out Huyler House or Willow Walks without encountering these tiny, dive-bombing terns. They are currently listed as threatened in South Carolina, after suffering greatly in the early twentieth century due to the millinery trade.  They face destruction of habitat, disruption by people, and predation from raccoons, foxes and mink.

We haven’t seen them for a while, and the dunes have undergone some changes.  However, the washover area near the south end of the island should be a great nesting place.  Following the example set by Huntington Beach State Park, in Myrtle Beach, Gretchen has set out some decoys which might encourage terns to nest in that area. 

From a distance, they look like a flock of terns, facing into the wind.  Upon closer review, however, they seem a little wooden in their movements.

Be sure to stay behind the lines and keep your dog on a leash near the nesting zones.  Even leashed dogs can decrease bird diversity by 50%, which is why it is a better idea to run your dog on the beach at the middle of the island (between Osprey and Ancient Dunes Walks.

If you do see terns nesting in the area, or they dive-bomb you, please be sure to let Lori know.

Read more about least terns on SCDNR’s website

See more identifying pics, listen to the sound on

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. ExNat

    The Huntington Beach project used similar decoys in collaboration with an audio lure played through an mp3/speaker set up.

    Check with Mike Walker at the park for details (Mike would also be a GREAT guest naturalist to have speak at Dewees).

    Perhaps an interested owner would be willing to fund the purchase of the audio equipment to make the experiment even more effective 🙂

    Neat post! 2007 summer intern, Molly Klarman, painted about 100 wooden terns to use for this project.

Leave a Reply