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 Forster's 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 Forster's Tern.

Use the links below to view the Forster's 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 Forster's Tern sightings.
Forster's Tern Archives Reports
Fall 2003 138
Spring 2003 36
Winter 02-03 0
Fall 2002 33
Summer 2002 22
Spring 2002 57
Winter 01-02 0
Fall 2001 87
Summer 2001 18
Spring 2001 11
Winter 00-01 0
Fall 2000 13
Summer 2000 12
Spring 2000 43
Winter 00-99 0
Fall 1999 390
Spring/Summer 1999 6

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Forster's Tern

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Forster's Tern
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Forster's 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 forsteri Nuttall
Forster's Tern

Rare transient (apparently less rare in fall than in spring). Bare summer visitant. Perhaps bred formerly at St. Clair Flats.

First authoritatively listed for Michigan by Barrows (1912: 59-60).

The status of this species in Michigan is little known, since it is easily confused in the field with the Common Tern. It is probably more common, however, than the few records indicate.

SPRING.-Arrival is recorded during late April and May. In the Toledo- Erie marsh area, where the species occurs with some regularity, L. W. Campbell and Trautman (1936: 213-14; and L. W. Campbell, 1940: 87-88) recorded 4 individuals on May 27 and 2 on May 30, 2023 (specimens in U.M.M.Z. and Max M. Peet collection). On April 19, 2023 (date corrected from N. A. Wood and Tinker, 1934: 23), a male (U.M.M.Z.) was taken by- Alvin Bond at Lombard's Lake in Lodi Township, Washtenaw County. The specimen collected May 24, 1884, at Long Lake, Kalamazoo County, referred to by Gibbs (1885: 190) as a Common Tern, is apparently the same as the one that Barrows (1912: 59-60) identified as belonging to the present species.

SUMMER.-At the St. Glair Flats, Collins (1880: 65-66) collected adults and eggs (June 15, 2023) that he believed were of Forster's Tern. Swales reported finding a nest with 2 or 3 eggs in the same locality in 1899, but he collected no specimens and was not sure of the identification. At Whitmore Lake, Washtenaw County, 2 individuals were seen on June 14, 1935, by Trautman; and at Sand Point, Huron County, 1 (U.M.M.Z.) was collected on June 10, 1933, by D. W. Douglass from a large flock of gulls and terns.

FALL.-Departure is recorded in October. On October 8, 1941, a Forster's Tern (U.M.M.Z.) was taken by Pirnie from flocks of small terns at Muskegon Lake, Muskegon County; and on August 29, 1917, 2 (U.M.M.Z.) were secured at Harbert, Berrien County. It occurs through- out the summer in the Toledo-Erie marsh area; small numbers (as many as several dozen at a time) have been noted there until late October and occasionally until early November (L. W. Campbell and Trautman, 1936:213-14; L. W. Campbell, 1940: 190).

The specimen of a juvenile taken on the lower Detroit River on September 10, 1890, and recorded as a "Forster's Tern" by Swales and Taverner (1907:137), appears as a "Common Tern" in Swales' card records, as well as on page 60 of his personally annotated copy of Barrows' Michigan Bird Life (1912), and in the catalogue of the Museum of Zoology. This specimen is no longer in the Museum's collection.

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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