Rob and Sue Wood of Findlay contacted me to report spotting a common tern feeding in the clay pits area a few days ago. But the common tern really isn’t so common.
The common tern is a rare summer resident and an uncommon migrant. Before the larger, more aggressive gulls took over their nesting sites on the Lake Erie islands, terns were much more common.
Although the state-endangered common tern occurs statewide during migration, nesting colonies have always been restricted to the Western Basin. Artificial platforms have been successful in attracting nesting birds to more-secure nesting areas.
Terns are small, fast-flying water birds with deep V-shaped tails. They do not soar or swim like the gulls, but dive straight into the water after small fish.
Their preferred nesting sites are natural or man-made islands that are free of predatory mammals and human disturbance. They will also utilize mainland beaches and dredge disposal areas, but only when islands are unavailable.
The tern can be very defensive of its nest and young and will harass humans, dogs, muskrats and most day-flying birds. But it rarely hits the intruder, usually swerving off at the last moment.
Some can discriminate between individual humans, attacking familiar people more intensely than strangers.
Nocturnal predators are the greater risk to nesting terns and colonies can be wiped out by rats. Other nighttime lurkers such as raccoons and owls can also disrupt a tern colony, causing them to leave for up to eight hours, further jeopardizing the young’s survival.
During the 19th century, tern feathers and wings were used to decorate women’s hats. This was the primary cause of steep declines in North America and abroad. Some of the hats used the entire mounted bird to help make the fashion statement.
Terns recovered in the 20th century, thanks mainly to protective legislation and restoration work by conservation organizations and state and federal wildlife agencies.
Along the Way:
During the first week of Ohio’s wild turkey season, from April 18 to April 24, hunters bagged 8,629 of the big birds. That’s slightly higher than last year’s 8,158 turkeys checked.
Hunters are required to have a hunting license and turkey hunting permit to pursue the birds. The season bag limit is two bearded turkeys. The season will continue through May 15.
Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds.
The wild turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. In 2000, two more turkey firsts were achieved: the first statewide season and the first time 2,000 birds were killed.
Step Outside:
• Today: The Hancock County Naturalists will be conducting its annual spring bird count. Members will be traveling throughout the county to identify and count every bird they encounter.
• Today and tomorrow: Free fishing days are open to all Ohio residents.
• Today and tomorrow: Tri-State Gun Collectors Show, Allen County Fairgrounds.
• Tomorrow: Sporting clays, 10 a.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Tuesday: Steel Challenge Pistol Shoot, 5 p.m., HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, 5 p.m., UCOA.
• May 14: Youth Day, 9 a.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186. Kids 17 and under are invited to participate to learn about shooting and archery sports. Contact Bob Yoder, 419-273-5057.
• May 14 and 15: Guided birding tours for novices and new birders, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Oak Harbor. The walks will be held 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. on May 14; and 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on May 15. To sign up, email: Include name, phone number, date and time slot.
• May 15: Women’s gun awareness program, 1 p.m. Mount Blanchard Gun Club. Open to women 18 and older. Firearm safety and use will be covered. For details and cost, contact Jackie Schnapp, 419-957-0459.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at