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 Common 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 Common Tern.

Use the links below to view the Common 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 Common Tern sightings.
Common Tern Archives Reports
Fall 2003 23
Spring 2003 16
Winter 02-03 0
Fall 2002 243
Summer 2002 70
Spring 2002 10
Winter 01-02 0
Fall 2001 562
Summer 2001 14
Spring 2001 27
Winter 00-01 0
Fall 2000 102
Summer 2000 9
Spring 2000 141
Winter 00-99 0
Fall 1999 1750
Spring/Summer 1999 7

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Common Tern

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Common Tern
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Common 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

Sterna hirundo hirundo Linnaeus
Common Tern

Common summer resident on the Great Lakes, from western Lake Erie to near Sault Ste Marie, and about northern Lake Michigan. Transient in small numbers in the interior.

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

SPRING.-Arrival in southern counties has been reported principally in late April and early May; in the Upper Peninsula, during the latter half of May.

Lower Peninsula.-In the Toledo-Erie marsh area L. "W. Campbell (1940: 190, 204) has noted arrival of individuals during the last week of April, and the beginning of main flight on the average by May 1. Common Terns have appeared at a corresponding time in the Ann Arbor and the Detroit areas, although occasionally earlier (on April 12, 1908, a flock of 13 seen near Ann Arbor by N. A. "Wood). Observers have found the species uncommon in the Jackson County region; "Walkinshaw listed it there on May 9, 1935, and Fargo saw 6, May 21, 1924. Along the Berrien County shore in 1918 N. A. Wood (1922: 7-8) saw a flock of 16 on May 14 and hundreds of Common Terns on May 16 and 17. On Lone Tree Island, Huron County, C. G. Manuel (1930: 236) found the earliest Common Terns about the first of May, and by about mid-June a breeding population of 2000 pairs. Several specimens (U.M.M.Z.)/were collected on Beaver Island, Charlevoix County, on May 15, 1932, and Blanchard and Nelson (MS of 1937) found the species at Douglas Lake, Cheboygan County, as early as May 13.

Upper Peninsula.-Occasionally Christofferson and Magee have found the Common Tern along the Saint Mary's River, Chippewa County, by the middle of May. At Whitefish Point, Chippewa County, Brodkorb saw a flock of 6 on May 16, 1936. Christofferson, at Blaney, Schoolcraft County, and Bryens, at McMillan, Luce County, have reported arrival during the latter part of May.

SUMMER.-The species was found breeding on Grosse He in the Detroit River, Wayne County (a 5-nest colony on July 17, 1933, in which C. C. and F. E. Ludwig banded the 7 chicks present). Colonies have been noted also on the St. Clair Flats, St. Clair County, where 1500 nests were estimated by Van Loon (1922: 274-75; see also Cole, 1910: 164; J. Butler, 1912: 413- 14; 1913a: 456) ; in Huron County on Lone Tree Island (2000 nests recorded by Walter E. Hastings, 1924: 41) ; occasionally on an island at Sand Point (1929 and 1930 by C. G. Manuel; and 1939 by R. L. Patterson, John L. George, and George Dick); and on the Charity Islands (N. A. Wood, 1912o:180) ; at East Tawas, Iosco County (1941, by Walkinshaw and E. M. Brig- ham, Jr.) ; and on islands of Alcona County and of Thunder Bay, Alpena County (Lyon, 1926 : 245; Max M. Peet collection). Although no Common Terns were seen on the Fox (in 1939) or Manitou (in 1940) islands of Leelanau County (A. E. Staebler and L. D. Case), colonies were reported: on Small and Sand islands, southwestern Delta County (Lyon, 1926: 244- 48; and 1932: 29-30); on at least 5 of the Beaver Islands, Charlevoix County (U.M.M.Z.; Barrows, 1904: 66; Lincoln, 1924a: 39) ; on the north shore of Emmet County (in very small numbers-Blanchard and Nelson, MS of 1937); along the coast of Mackinac County (Lyon, 1926: 244-48;1932: 29-30; Van Tyne, 1923: 21) ; and in Chippewa County on the St. Mary's River and about Drummond Island (Boies, 1897: 18; Lyon, 1926:244-48; and Magee, 1922:175).

In midsummer this tern occurs more or less regularly at places distant from its breeding localities: at Portage Lake, Washtenaw County (one or more every few years-N. A. Wood); along the shore of Berrien County (July 24, 1917-N. A. Wood, 1922: 7-8) ; along the shore of Charlevoix County ("numerous"-Van Tyne, 1925: 614) ; and in Cheboygan County about Burt Lake, Douglas Lake, and Cheboygan (Blanchard and Nelson, MS of 1937).

FALL.-The southward movement occurs in late August, through September and, in the south along the shore lines, well into October.

Upper Peninsula.-According to Christofferson and Magee, this tern has usually departed from its nesting grounds in Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County, by August 20. At Blaney, Schoolcraft County, Christofferson has seen the species on a few occasions after mid-August (September 7, 1934, 25 birds seen) ; and at McMillan, Luce County, Bryens has recorded it until Septemberl2 (1937).

Lower Peninsula.-In Benzie County, D. E. Davis saw a flock of 50 on August 29, 1940, and a flock on September 7, 1934. C. G. Manuel (1930:236) found immatures on Lone Tree Island, Huron County, as late as November 10; at Fish Point, Tuscola County, N. A. Wood and R. E. Olsen saw 200 on both September 27 and 28, 1934; Wood collected 1 (U.M.M.Z.) there on October 17, 1925. N. A. Wood (1922: 7-8) observed hundreds on September 2, in Berrien County, and E. B. Ford found the species still present in Allegan County on October 17, 1926. A flock of 50 was reported in the Ann Arbor region by N. A. Wood on both August 30, 1937, and October 10, 1920. Jefferson Butler (1913o: 456) noted 2000 in late August on lower Lake St. Clair; Swales recorded a few present in the Detroit area until mid- October, and in 1916, as late as October 29 (20 seen). In the Toledo-Erie marsh area, numbers have been present usually until September 29 (once as late as November 17), and stragglers until December 4 (L. W. Campbell, 1940: 190, 204).

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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