My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

Sue's Bird Blog Archives

Elegant Tern on the Niagara River

Published November 23, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Elegant Tern, Common Tern, Little Gull, Bonaparte's Gull

Another great rarity was discovered this past week by Vicki Rothman. Vicki found an Elegant Tern while birding at Beaver Island State Park. This rare find was flying and feeding among hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls on the Niagara River.  Since then, the greatest vantage point for viewing the tern has been found to be from the north end of Squaw Island. Drive to the furthest point you can and then walk far out onto the pier.  S/he seems to like resting with some Common Terns at the far, right corner.

The Common Terns are rare for this area and time of year, usually having migrated through by now. But the Elegant Tern is MEGA RARE for our area, with only 2 New York State records of it, this being the first for the BOS region.

How did this southern west coast vagrant end up on the Niagara River?  Again, no one knows. With no logical water routes leading from its west coast range to WNY, it's quite a puzzle. And it's pure speculation as to whether it will stay for awhile, leave with the Bonaparte's soon, and whether it will survive our harsh cold winds and snow if it should linger...

Some of you may know that the Brown Booby, our most recent celebrity bird, did not make it. It was found on the Ontario side of the Lake Erie shoreline in a moribund state and hasn't been sighted since, most certainly demised. I was very sad to read that report.

I have hope that the Elegant Tern fares better than the Brown Booby.  S/he was certainly doing well and feeding vigorously when I watched it yesterday.  It was actively diving and sometimes emerging with several minnows in its beak! That was amazing to see!

Another nice bird I enjoyed while watching the Elegant Tern, was an uncommon, but not terribly rare gull, aptly named Little Gull.  The Little Gull is, indeed, the smallest gull and is more common to central Europe and southern Siberia. It's been found to breed in Ontario and Wisconsin, however, wintering in small numbers in the northeast and on the Great Lakes.

If you go to see the Elegant Tern, watch for a small gull with more rounded, dark underwings that lack any black above. There are so many Bonaparte's Gulls at this location right now which makes it difficult to find, but once you spot it, it's hard to miss.  Other great finds that have been seen during the last few days include Black-legged Kittiwake and Franklin's Gull.

If you missed the Brown Booby, don't let this great rarity pass you by: go to Squaw Island and see it while you can!
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Elegant Tern
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Elegant Tern - very rare to WNY!
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Elegant Tern
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Elegant Tern
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Elegant Tern
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Common Tern - there were about 6 or 7 and they are late in migrating out of here
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Bonaparte's Gull (1 of well over a thousand)
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Little Gull with a fresh catch
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Little Gull
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Red-breasted Merganser (Lake Ontario a few days earlier)
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Red-throated Loon (Lake Ontario a few days earlier)