Gather Ye Terns While You May

Sterna hirundoGather in the optical sense, of course. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) have been breeding in New York Harbor for the last few years, a new and exciting development in a world where the environmental/ecological news is usually bad. They use the abandoned piers on Governor’s Island, with some help from friendly bipeds (cf. NYC Audubon) who have been spreading gravel to make the nesting sites more welcoming. (One must also assume there are not so many feral cats on GI. Ground nesters are particularly vulnerable to the plague of feral cats infesting the nation.) The birds, old and young, will be heading south within a month or so; the adults are also in the process of losing this striking breeding plumage. So enjoy them along the harbor edges while you can for this season.

If your binomial senses are tingling over the scientific name of this species, you probably recall that several swallow species are in the genus Hirundo, which is Latin for swallow. Sterna is simply Latin for tern; so this is a “tern swallow,” no doubt because of the swallow-like forked tail, which is actually more pronounced in some other tern species.

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