Posted Mar. 28, 2016 at 9:45 PM
Updated Mar 29, 2016 at 12:50 AM
While you probably know how vital Massachusetts is to the tiny world population of piping plovers, you might not be as familiar with roseate terns. They’re also rare and endangered birds that need the Bay State. About 80 percent of their tiny population feeds on the Outer Cape each summer, fattening up mostly on abundant sand eels before migrating to coastal South America where they spend the winter.
In a little more than a decade after the roseate tern's placement on the endangered species list in 1987, its population rebounded from a low of just 3,000 pairs up to over 4,000. Prospects were looking bright for their ascent to the 5,000 pairs needed to keep their population viable. But their numbers have once again fallen alarmingly close to 1987 numbers. Kathy Parsons, director of the state Coastal Waterbird Program, thinks she knows why. Needless to say, Cape surf fishermen won’t be surprised. Gray seals, which have expanded beyond everyone’s expectations, take enormous amounts of fish and make surf casting for striped bass almost impossible. Parsons suspects they are competing too well with the terns for the same food.