Executive Summary
To address the 2008/2010 and Supplemental 2014 National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration Fisheries Biological Opinion for operation of the Federal Columbia River Power
System, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation)
developed and began implementation of Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia) management plans. This
implementation includes redistribution of the Caspian terns in the Columbia River estuary and the mid-
Columbia River region to reduce predation on salmonids listed under the Endangered Species Act. Key
elements of the plans are (1) reduction of nesting habitat for Caspian terns in the Columbia River estuary
and the mid-Columbia River region, and (2) creation or modification of nesting habitat at alternative
sites within the Caspian tern breeding range. As part of this effort, USACE and Reclamation developed
Caspian tern nesting habitat at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Don Edwards San Francisco Bay
National Wildlife Refuge (DENWR), California, prior to the 2015 nesting season. Furthermore, nesting
habitat for western snowy plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) also was developed to provide
separate nesting opportunities in the same managed ponds to reduce potential conflicts with Caspian
terns. Specifically, seven recently constructed islands within two managed ponds (Ponds A16 and SF2)
of DENWR were modified to provide habitat attractive to nesting Caspian terns (5 islands) and snowy
plovers (2 islands). These 7 islands were a subset of 46 islands recently constructed in Ponds A16 and
SF2 to provide waterbird nesting habitat as part of the South Bay Salt Pond (SBSP) Restoration Project.

We used social attraction methods (decoys and electronic call systems) to attract Caspian terns
and snowy plovers to these seven modified islands, and conducted surveys from March to September of
2015, 2016, and 2017 to evaluate nest numbers, nest density, and productivity. Results from the 2015
nesting season, the first year of the study, indicated that island modifications and social attraction
measures were successful in establishing Caspian tern breeding colonies at Ponds A16 and SF2 of
DENWR. Prior to 2015, there was no history of Caspian terns nesting in either Pond A16 or Pond SF2.
The success of 2015 continued in 2016 and 2017. In 2017, the third and final year of the project,
Caspian terns initiated at least 664 nests, fledged at least 239 chicks, and had a breeding success rate of
0.36 fledged chicks per breeding pair. This represents a 171 percent increase in the number of breeding
pairs and a 41 percent increase in the number of chicks fledged, but a 48 percent decrease in the
fledglings produced per breeding pair in 2017 compared to 2015, the first year the colonies were
established. The two new large and growing Caspian tern nesting colonies at Ponds A16 and SF2
demonstrate the effectiveness of social attraction measures in helping to establish tern nesting colonies
in San Francisco Bay. Social attraction measures similar to those used in this study, but targeting other
colonial species such as Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri) and American avocets (Recurvirostra
americana), may help to establish waterbird breeding colonies at wetlands enhanced as part of the SBSP
Restoration Project.

Pond Complex
Associated File(s)
Download Document PDF - social_attraction_used_to_establish_caspian_tern_hydroprogne_caspia_nesting_colonies_on_modified_islands_at_the_don_edwards_san_francisco_bay_national_wildlife_refuge_california-final_report.pdf (3.39 MB)