The interior least tern has been formally removed from threatened and endangered species list under the Endangered Species Act! During the 19th and 20th centuries, populations were decimated by overharvesting for their feathers, which were used to adorn hats, and through river engineering projects, including dams, which resulted in flooding or degrading of their habitat. As a result, the interior least terns was added to the list of endangered species in 1985 when fewer than 2,000 birds remained in the United States.
After three decades of conservation partnerships, the delisting serves as another conservation success story! According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are now more than 18,000 interior least terns at more than 480 nesting sites in 18 states (including Louisiana).
“Dozens of states, federal agencies, tribes, businesses and conservation groups have worked tirelessly over the course of three decades to successfully recover these birds.” Aurelia Skipwith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director
Interior least terns spend their summers along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and tributaries, nesting on sandbars and feeding on small fish. In the winter, they migrate to the Caribbean and South America.
While the tern has been delisted federally, it will remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made monitoring and conservation commitments that encompass about 80% of the breeding population to ensure continued success of the species.
Photo credit: Laurie Sheppard/USFWS