Breeding Bird Atlas 2 Additional Accounts


Forster's Tern

Sterna forsteri

Whether or not the Forster’s Tern was seen in Massachusetts prior to 1858 is up for debate. In that year differentiations were finally made between the breeding plumage of the Forster's Tern and the Common Tern, and people could begin to tell the two species apart from one another. Charles Johnson Maynard, a Massachusetts collector of “objects of natural history,” claimed in 1864 when he wrote his book on the topic that he had “never met with it” (Maynard 1870), then six years later he became the first person in Massachusetts to definitely do so when he shot one on the beach in Ipswich. Though regularly seen during fall migration, Forster’s Terns remained unknown as breeders in Massachusetts during Atlas 1. Though an errant storm might bring them in modest numbers to the Bay State’s shores in the summertime, no Forster’s Tern had ever been known to remain behind to breed. Still, the population was creeping its way northward, and the first breeding Forster’s Terns to make landfall on Long Island, New York, did so just two years after the first round of Atlas surveys were concluded in Massachusetts. The first Confirmed breeding of Forster’s Tern in Massachusetts came in 1991 at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (Petersen & Meservey 2003), but the species has not been recorded breeding in the Bay State since then.