Least terns (Sternula antillarum) are a small migratory bird approximately 22 -24 cm long with a wing span of around 50cm. Least terns arrive to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve in early April and spend 3-5 months on the breeding grounds. The terns nest on open sandy or gravely areas near water, producing small burrows in the sand where they will lay a clutch of 1-3 eggs, the sight chosen for nesting must be of low vegetation and at a vantage point where it is possible to see the approach of oncoming predators, after 21-24 days the eggs hatch and in the following four weeks the chick will be able to fly .
The least tern is currently described as ´of least concern’ by the IUCN Red list (2013), however it has been noted that the population is in decrease due to an increase in development and storm surges destroying important nesting habitats (Birdlife international,Species factsheet: Sternula antillarum, 2013).
Due to the remote setting, the limited human disturbances and the plentiful food source the Pez Maya beach provides, the area has become an ideal breeding ground for the Least tern. In 2012 approximately 65 nests with a colony population of around 100 mature individuals were recorded. Last week volunteers and staff headed to the beach with painted signs, shovels and a lot of rope to mark and protect the Least tern nesting grounds. We hope that this season’s breeding will be a success with the help of the Pez Maya staff and volunteers and the Least Tern will return for many years to come.
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