Tern Monitoring

Detroit Audubon’s Tern Monitoring Project is aimed at learning about the Black Tern and Forster’s Tern populations in and around Lake St. Clair. Detroit Audubon is the overseer of the Detroit River Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA covers the entire length of the Detroit River but effectively includes Lake St. Clair. The Tern project is an exciting but challenging part of our work with the IBA.


Research Coordinator, Erin Rowan, bands hatch year Black Tern. Photo by Diane Cheklich.

The terns have been nesting in the St. Clair flats for a long time, but their populations in many areas have shown declines. Black Terns in particular have seen a cumulative decline of 57% nationally, and just over 70% in the state of Michigan since 1966. They are now listed as a species of Special Concern in the state of Michigan and have become the focus of Detroit Audubon’s monitoring efforts.

In order to monitor the terns, our long-term volunteer Randall Kling, and recently our Research Coordinator, Erin Rowan, have gone to the flats each summer since 2013. Nests are found and monitored, eggs are measured, and adult and young Black Terns are banded throughout the breeding season. We are looking forward to starting our 6th field season in 2018.


Black Tern adult getting banded. Photo by Diane Cheklich.

We need volunteers who are willing to work from boats to join our Research Coordinator to observe nesting activity in order to document the current state of the colonies. If you think you may want to be involved in this project, please email our Research Coordinator Ava Landgraf at alandgraf@detroitaudubon.org.