Terns: Science and Nature

Every summer on Great Gull Island off the coast of Connecticut, science and nature combine to make this place a sanctuary for thousands of nesting Terns. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“Great Gull Island is probably the source colony for most of the terns in Long Island sound. It’s a place where they can reproduce successfully. They may be nesting in other places, in smaller colonies, but they are not reproducing so well because many of the places where they nest are also places that Gulls nest, and gulls prey on them. And here, we don’t have any gulls nesting, so most of the birds can raise young quite successfully.”

Helen Hays is Director of the Great Gull Island Project. Together with a handful of dedicated scientists and volunteers, she helps keep conditions on Great Gull ideal for nesting terns, and also keeps track of nearly every bird on the island.

“Each bird, actually, is in the computer. And we have the histories of each bird and we keep track of who they pair with, and how long the pairs stay together. And how long the birds live.

I think we’re learning things here that will help with management for the species in areas along the coast where people are interested in managing for them. And I think, at least in this area, because of the scarcity of sites, it is necessary to manage for them. And there have to be areas that are set aside for the birds, but they should be areas that aren’t of any interest or use to people. Because people in this area, I think, certainly take precedence over the birds. It may be surprising to hear me say that, but I really believe that. And so the birds should have the areas that are not important for people.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Terns: Science and Nature

Great Gull Island is unused by humans but ideal for the thousands of Terns which migrate here each spring.
Air Date:06/15/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

Every summer on Great Gull Island off the coast of Connecticut, science and nature combine to make this place a sanctuary for thousands of nesting Terns. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"Great Gull Island is probably the source colony for most of the terns in Long Island sound. It's a place where they can reproduce successfully. They may be nesting in other places, in smaller colonies, but they are not reproducing so well because many of the places where they nest are also places that Gulls nest, and gulls prey on them. And here, we don't have any gulls nesting, so most of the birds can raise young quite successfully."

Helen Hays is Director of the Great Gull Island Project. Together with a handful of dedicated scientists and volunteers, she helps keep conditions on Great Gull ideal for nesting terns, and also keeps track of nearly every bird on the island.

"Each bird, actually, is in the computer. And we have the histories of each bird and we keep track of who they pair with, and how long the pairs stay together. And how long the birds live.

I think we're learning things here that will help with management for the species in areas along the coast where people are interested in managing for them. And I think, at least in this area, because of the scarcity of sites, it is necessary to manage for them. And there have to be areas that are set aside for the birds, but they should be areas that aren't of any interest or use to people. Because people in this area, I think, certainly take precedence over the birds. It may be surprising to hear me say that, but I really believe that. And so the birds should have the areas that are not important for people."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.