Endangered California Least Tern nesting in Malibu for the first time in decades

June 6th, 2013 · by Garrison Frost


Great news out of Los Angeles, where the Endangered California Least Tern has been discovered breeding at the Malibu Lagoon for the first time since 1940. Dan Cooper earlier this week  found 58 California Least Terns and then Los Angeles Audubon biologist Tom Ryan discovered 7 one-egg nests within the symbolic fenced area that Los Angeles Audubon has erected for Snowy Plovers in partnership with Audubon and California State Parks. Los Angeles Audubon, California State Parks, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and others are working now to protect the nesting site from disturbance from beachgoers, dogs, predators and other potential impacts.

Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Chapters · Bird Habitat · Bird L.A. · Endangered Species Act · Western Snowy Plover

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Matt Horns

    This is a huge success story for the massively, unfairly, maligned designers and proponents of the 2012-2013 Malibu Restoration and Enhancement project. Project opponents earned several hundreds of thousands of dollars on a misguided attempt to stop the project, yet they thankfully failed in their misguided obstructionism. I worked on this project for 15 years, yet the Malibu Restoration and Enhancement project has turned out much more beautifully than I imagined. I have volunteered to help at the Venice Beach least turn colony, but had no hope that they would show up at Malibu Lagoon.

    My friend Steve Woods was there last week and described what he saw. 100+ least terns are gathered on the beach next to Malibu Lagoon in a frenzy of reproductive behavior. The males are very busy courting the females. He saw males many times fly over to the new channels that were created by the recent restoration, that unlike before, are now full of fish. These male least terns quickly returned with a fish that they had caught in the new channels and offered the fish to any receptive female, demonstrating that this Dude is a good provider of food for his family.

    To be honest, we don’t know exactly why least terns decided that now is the time to return to Malibu Lagoon. It might have been from the fence placed on the beach last year to protect roosting snowy plovers from being disturbed. It might have been from the improved water quality resulting from Legacy Park’s urban runoff treatment system. It might be because these beautiful rare endangered birds’ previous nesting habitat elsewhere on the Southern California Coast was destroyed for some reason and they came to Malibu Lagoon in an act of desperation.

    What we do know is that this least tern colony has found a new home in which they are welcomed by almost everyone in the Malibu community

  • Janine Duffy

    Fantastic news! I was impressed to see one of these fenced areas at/near Venice Beach, California last time I visited. I think we might need to try this option in Australia, where many of our beach-nesting birds are suffering from nest disturbance on beaches.