Note: This special video post from Ambassablogger Sjohnna is part of San Diego International Airport’s 30 Days of Blue 80th birthday celebration. Enjoy!
Have you seen a California least tern lately? I bet you didn’t even know it, but as you approach San Diego International Airport from downtown on Harbor Drive, it’s possible to see least terns and their nests near the end of Runway 29 (at the corner of Harbor Drive and Laurel Street) during nesting season, which runs from April to mid-September each year. Recently, I was able to take a tour to see some least tern chicks up close and personal!
Here are some interesting facts I learned:
- The corner of the airfield near the end of Runway 29 is the most productive least tern nesting site in San Diego County. Why, you ask? Because it is on the airfield, so very few creatures (including least tern predators) travel in that area. Since California least terns are an endangered species, the Airport Authority takes measures to protect them on airport property.
- The least terns spend slightly less time on “site selection studies” than the Airport Authority. They take just one week to scope out potential nest sites before they pick their desired nesting location.
- This season, there are currently 139 nests on the airfield, which is the second-highest nesting year on record.
- New parents have to continually feed their new chicks. They fly over Harbor Drive every 20-40 minutes to take a dip in San Diego Bay to catch some fish to bring back to their nests.
- They say kids grow up fast … well, least tern chicks reach full adult size in just three weeks!
- Staff from the Airport Authority’s Environmental Affairs Department visit the nest sites twice a week to check on the birds.
And, in case you’re not lucky enough to see a least tern at the airport in real life, here is a fun little video I took of a newborn chick. In it, Robert – the Airport Authority’s contractor through the Zoological Society of San Diego – applies a tracking bracelet and talks about just how unique these little birds are.
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