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As the World Terns: Help Us Keep California Least Tern Nesting Sites Safe

As the pandemic continues and physical distancing remains a necessity, fewer humans are visiting popular outdoor destinations, including our beaches. As a result, we’re reaching out to enforcement agencies about something they may have never experienced or expected to see on the job: endangered species in heavily-used public spaces.

In Mission Bay, endangered California Least Terns and other dune-nesting birds could respond to the lack of humans by expanding their nesting areas. While it’s likely the terns will return to sites they know best, some may try something new in the absence of humans and dogs.

San Diego Audubon has been assisting with the monitoring and protection of California Least Terns for decades, and we want to know when the terns return to Mission Bay, where they go, and if they’re scouting new nesting sites. Nesting season for the terns runs through mid-September – and you can help us ensure they remain safe wherever they make landing.

Download our on-line flyer for easy California Least Tern identification and response, or print it to share it with neighbors.

As the flyer notes, California Least Terns have a black crown and white forehead with black wing tips, and are typically smaller than other terns. If you see one of the terns, e-mail us at and we’ll relay the message to the appropriate managing agency, or you can use eBird to report sightings.

Download our California Least Tern flyer here.

Photos by Ed Henry
Audubon graphic by Megan Flaherty