Breeding Bird Atlas 2 Species Accounts
- Very local and strongly declining
- Conservation action urgent
- Endangered Species
As an Endangered Species in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Roseate Tern has been justifiably receiving a lot of attention. Named for the pinkish wash that appears on its breast feathers during the breeding season, Roseate Terns are slender and graceful birds that make their living diving for fish. Roughly half of the entire North American population of this species breeds in the Bay State. An even larger proportion relies on favored Cape Cod localities like Monomoy and Nauset as staging areas during fall migration. Though they are protected and closely monitored, Roseate Terns’ future remains uncertain.
Historic StatusA single Roseate Tern shot by Thomas Nuttall on a beach in Chelsea at some point prior to 1839 was at the time considered to be an accidental visitor to the state. It was no accident in 1846, however, when the species set up a breeding colony in Beverly Harbor and another in Ipswich in 1869. By the 1870s, the species had become locally common along the coast, but unfortunately its attempts to establish permanent summer residency were met with gunfire. Plume hunters working for the millinery trade reduced the Massachusetts population to about 2,000 pairs in by the 1890s. Legal protection brought about in the early twentieth century helped the species rebound in the middle decades of that era, but on the species’ South American wintering grounds hunters were killing them for sustenance in the 1960s, contributing to yet another decline.
Atlas 1 DistributionAlthough the majority of the Roseate Terns breeding in the state during Atlas 1 were in the Cape and Islands ecoregion, most of these birds resided in just two blocks in the Bristol/Narragansett Lowlands. Specifically, Bird Island in Marion hosted the majority of known breeding pairs in the state at the time. Although Roseates were no longer hunted for their elegant plumes, beach development, increasing recreational use of beaches, and an exploding gull population continued to make the full recovery of the Roseate Tern in Massachusetts an uphill battle. Many sites around Cape Cod and the Islands, including Monomoy and Martha’s Vineyard, hosted at least some breeding Roseate Terns, but during Atlas 1 most of their eggs were in the Bird Island basket.
Atlas 2 Distribution and ChangeObservers found Roseate Terns in 10 blocks, 2 fewer blocks than Atlas 1, and not surprisingly all were along the southeastern coast. Several blocks on the outer Cape were abandoned, although two new blocks were added to the count. See the note below for a more thorough discussion of the trends of Roseate Tern.
Atlas 1 Map
Atlas 2 Map
Atlas Change Map
|Atlas 1||Atlas 2||Change|
|Ecoregion||# Blocks||% Blocks||% of Range||# Blocks||% Blocks||% of Range||Change in # Blocks||Change in % Blocks|
|Marble Valleys/Housatonic Valley||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Lower Berkshire Hills||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Connecticut River Valley||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Lower Worcester Plateau||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|S. New England Coastal Plains and Hills||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Bristol and Narragansett Lowlands||2||1.9||16.7||2||1.8||20.0||0||0.0|
|Cape Cod and Islands||10||7.4||83.3||8||5.6||80.0||-3||-2.5|