Caspian Terns Eating Less Salmonby Associated Press
Spokesman Review, October 25, 2000
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Fewer juvenile salmon became snacks this year for Caspian terns nesting at the mouth of the Columbia River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports.
Season-ending numbers for the federal effort to relocate Caspian terns show the birds ate approximately 4.4 million fewer salmon this year than last. That's a decrease of about one-third from the 1999 total.
"This is a very good start," Bob Willis, chief of environmental resources for the corps in Portland, said Monday.
About 7.3 million salmon were eaten by terns this year, researchers estimate.
The Columbia is home to the world's largest colony of Caspian terns. For the last few years, the corps and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service have been trying to move the 20,000 terns toward the mouth of the river where salmon have a better chance of avoiding the seabirds.
Since 1986, the birds have nested on Rice Island, a 230-acre man-made island of dredge spoils near Astoria, Ore. Despite government efforts to move them to East Sand Island farther downstream, nearly the same number of terns nested on Rice Island last year as in 1998.
Federal harassment of the birds was blocked this spring by a federal court judge, but on their own, nearly the entire colony abandoned Rice Island for East Sand Island, the corps' choice.
The birds apparently were attracted by such passive measures such as a cleared 4-acre patch of sand, tern decoys and tern call recordings.
The migration of just a few miles apparently accounts for the drastic decrease in salmon consumption, probably because the waters near East Sand Island provide more food sources for terns.
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