WEST SEATTLE BIRDS: Update on the relocated, belated Caspian Terns

(Photos by Kersti Muul)

A week and a half ago, we published the answer to a question many West Seattle birdwatchers had been asking – where had all the Caspian Terns, squawking so distinctively as they flew over en route to a Duwamish River nesting spot, gone? Community naturalist Kersti Muul had tracked them to a new hangout atop a building on the south end of the downtown waterfront. Here’s what she has learned since then:

I was able to view the colony (Monday) and found that they have laid eggs, and may still be laying eggs as several are still bringing fish back to their mates.

I will be watching the situation closely as it is very late now, and it is just going to get hotter as summer moves along. Chicks have to be able to fly well, in order to leave with the colony in the fall and they are already two and a half months behind schedule. The colony appears to be about half of what it was last year, and I am still trying to figure out where the rest are. I will be looking at another nest site this weekend to see if they may be there. Last year the Seattle colony had 1978 nests/4000 or so adults (WDFW drone study). My drone study has about half that this year, although I still need to do a formal count.

It’s fascinating to see all the eggs just sitting closely together on the substrate with no nesting material or depressions. You wonder how they know which eggs are theirs. When there is a disturbance and they flush out, they have to come back and know which egg(s) are theirs. It is a vulnerable time for them now with eggs to protect from predators; they are becoming increasingly aggressive, live chicks will only increase this.

Wishing them success and will update again after the weekend!!

10 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BIRDS: Update on the relocated, belated Caspian Terns"

  • ITotallyAgreeWithYou July 12, 2022 (7:30 pm)

    LIfelong WSlite recently moved to the south slope of Queen Anne- I see Caspian Terns flying east/west what looks to be between Lake Union and the sound. Could they have relocated to that part of the city?

  • Photon July 12, 2022 (10:22 pm)

    Thanks for the update, I was just wondering today how they were doing. Rooting for successful baby terns!

  • SlimJim July 13, 2022 (2:53 pm)

    Any idea why they moved away from the old site?

    • Kersti Elisabeth Muul July 13, 2022 (7:28 pm)

      On June 5th I documented a behavior unseen previously by the peregrine pair that nests under the West Seattle bridge.The peregrines were harassing the terns and flushed the colony several times while I was observing. The colony had laid eggs at that time.. And then abandoned that building about a week later. I’m not 100% sure this is the cause but it’s a good hypothesis in the meantime while I’m figuring it out!

      • Auntie July 13, 2022 (7:42 pm)

        what is that document (too small for me to read and I cannot enlarge it)

  • Hello July 13, 2022 (8:30 pm)

    I see a group active south lake Washington near Boeing Renton several times a week. They’re normally chasing off bald eagles 

    • Kersti Elisabeth Muul July 13, 2022 (9:36 pm)

      Yes there are about 25 or so that fish the mouth of the cedar river 

  • Crow hop July 14, 2022 (11:08 am)

    Thanks for sharing and looking out for these Terns. Wonder where other breeding grounds are in Washington and if some have flown on to further locations this year, or maybe some are behind schedule due to weather/climate changes?

    • Kersti Elisabeth Muul July 17, 2022 (2:45 pm)

      I went to investigate the one that is closest yesterday but they aren’t there.  

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