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 Black Tern

Status in Michigan
Fairly Common Transient summer resident

Early Spring Date

Late Fall Date
Note: Early and Late Dates are being researched.
Image Credits
Count totals in the NMB Databases for Black Tern.

Use the links below to view the Black Tern reports in the respective databases.
If there are zero sightings for a particular season, that database will return no results.

Active Database - Spring 2005
View Black Tern sightings.
Black Tern Archives Reports
Fall 2003 5
Spring 2003 98
Winter 02-03 0
Fall 2002 5
Summer 2002 28
Spring 2002 33
Winter 01-02 0
Fall 2001 94
Summer 2001 19
Spring 2001 60
Winter 00-01 0
Fall 2000 0
Summer 2000 103
Spring 2000 11
Winter 00-99 0
Fall 1999 9
Spring/Summer 1999 7

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Black Tern

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Black Tern
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Black Tern
Note: Some species will not be present in the WPBO archives and will return no records.

Search "The Birds of Michigan" text.

Home - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Hypothetical List - Literature Cited

Historical Text

Chlidonias niger surinamensis (Gmelin)
Black Tern

Summer resident, common only in the southeastern quarter of the state; breeds north, apparently locally, to Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County.

First recorded for Michigan by Sager (1839: 417).

SPRING.-Arrival in southern counties has been reported chiefly in very late April and in early May; in the north in late May.

Lower Peninsula.-In the Toledo-Erie marsh area individuals have been recorded by the last of April, the beginning of main flight averaging May 10 (L. W. Campbell, 1940: 190, 204). About Detroit the species seldom arrived until after the first week in May, but became common by May 15 or 20 (Swales). In the 1930's elsewhere in southern Michigan-Washtenaw County; Jackson County (Walkinshaw); Battle Creek (Walkinshaw)- small numbers were noted regularly by the last few days of April or the first 10 days of May. On Saginaw Bay at Fish Point, Tuscola County, there were 5 on May 16, 1926, and larger numbers almost daily thereafter; at Sand Point, Huron County, 2 were reported on May 15, 2023 (R. E. Olsen and A. D. Tinker).

Upper Peninsula.-At Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County, the Black Tern has arrived by May 16 (1926), but as a rule not before the last week of May (Christofferson and Magee). Christofferson recorded it at Blaney, Schoolcraft County, on May 24, 1932.

SUMMER.-Eggs have been reported by the second week in May, but more usually in the latter part of May and June.

Lower Peninsula.-The species nests commonly in the Erie marsh, Mon- roe County (L. W. Campbell, 1940: 90-91), and perhaps also along the Michigan side of the Detroit River (U.M.M.Z.). Collins (1878: 26), Langille (1892: 15), Walter C. Wood (1903: 28), Swales, and others discovered- many nests and eggs in the St. Clair Flats. Earlier the species was not positively known to breed in the Ann Arbor region (N. A. Wood and Tinker, 1910: 130), but it has since been found to be rather common on various lakes there during the breeding season, and nests were found by J. Van Tyne and by A. S. Warthin, Jr., in 1922 (Van Tyne, 1924: 169; and Trautman, 1939 : 44-45). In Jackson County it has bred at Stony Lake, Napoleon Township (about 50 pairs in 1929-Roger T. Peterson), and Portage Lake (several nests found; 100 birds noted June 28, 1936, by R. E. Olsen and A. D. Tinker). Small nesting colonies have been seen in Calhoun County at Homer (downy young in U.M.M.Z.) and about Battle Creek (Walkinshaw, 1929:102; and notes), in Kalamazoo County near Kalamazoo (Gibbs, 1903: 27; Walkinshaw, notes) and perhaps at Vicksburg (F. W. Rapp, 1931: 1). Apparently this tern has bred at Brooks Lake, Brooks Town- ship, Newaygo County (a colony there regularly from 1922 to 1926-E. B. Ford), and commonly about Saginaw Bay, particularly at Lone Tree Island, Huron County, where 100 pairs were noted by C. C. and F. E. Ludwig in 1933, and at Linwood, Bay County (downy young in U.M.M.Z. taken July 8, 1934, by Miller Empey). It also breeds regularly in the Indian River marsh, Cheboygan County (Blanchard and Nelson, MS of 1937; Max M. Peet collection), and along the Crooked River near Alanson, Emmet County (1938-40, A. E. Staebler).

Upper Peninsula.-At Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County, Magee (1922:176) and Christofferson (notes) discovered 5 nests in 1922, and a few others in later years; in June of both 1934 and 1935 Walkinshaw found no nests, but reported the species fairly common. Without proof of nesting, the Black Tern has been observed in midsummer in other localities in Michigan: Fish Point, Tuscola County (U.M.M.Z.); Lake St. Helen, Roscommon County (U.M.M.Z.) ; Bird Island in Thunder Bay, Alpena County (10 birds on July 13, 1933-C. C. and F. E. Ludwig); Charlevoix (June 14, 1923-Walter E. Hastings, fide Van Tyne, 1925:614) ; Drummond Island, Chippewa County (Potagannissing River system in July and August, 1938-T. D. Hinshaw and R. A. MacMallan); and the Lake Superior State Forest in northern Luce County (July 1, 1 bird- Leonard Wing, 1940:177; and notes).

FALL.-Departure is recorded principally in August and early September, with some individuals remaining a few weeks longer.

Upper Peninsula.-At Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County, according to Christofferson, there were 50 immatures on August 8 (1928) and 6 on August 23 (1928), but none has been recorded there later than September 1 (1929). An individual was noted at Brevort Lake, Mackinac County, as late as September 5 (1927, Christofferson).

Lower Peninsula.-At Crystal Lake, Benzie County, David E. Davis saw a flock on September 4, 1934. In 1917 large numbers were feeding along the shore of Berrien County on September 2, and a few on September 4 (N. A. Wood, 1922: 8) ; at least 1 was reported at Vicksburg, Kalama- zoo County, until September 26 (F. W. Rapp, 1931: 1). In the Ann Arbor region the departure of local colonies was believed to coincide generally "with the first cool period in August. . . usually between August 4 and 20" (at Whitmore Lake-Trautman, 1939: 44-45) ; 3 transients, however, were noted in the region on September 28, 1926. (The November 15, 1912, date in N. A. Wood and Tinker, 1934: 24, should have been placed in the Common Tern column for the same year.) About Detroit, Swales found quite a number in the first part of August (as many as 50 on August 13, 2023), seldom any after August 25, but a few occasionally until mid-September. In the Toledo-Erie marsh area L. W. Campbell (1940:190, 204) has recorded numbers present usually until September 1 (once until September 24), and individuals as late as October 7.

Mueseum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75
The Birds of Michigan
By: Norman A. Wood
University of Michigan Press
August 28, 2023

Digitized by: Keith F. Saylor
[email protected]

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