TERN Citizen Science

Black Skimmer Decoys Attract Nesting Birds

Volunteers on the Texas coast help increase black skimmer nesting populations next season.

In early 2016, we were fortunate to have Galveston Bay Area - Texas Master Naturalist volunteers helps us with the painting of a new batch of black skimmer decoys. Due to the decline of suitable nesting habitat, Black Skimmer populations have begun to suffer. The TERN program creates natural habitat in new, safer locations, and wooden decoys are used to attract the birds to these new habitats. During a retreat called Wild Camp, volunteers were led by David Bulliner (TMN and TERN volunteer), educated about the TERN program and the importance and use of these decoys. Then volunteers began painting the decoys to resemble the birds they would be used to help attract.  While some of these birds may go back to east Texas, the majority of these black skimmer decoys will be deployed this 2017 nesting season to promote nesting in a preferred location at the north shore of the Texas City Prairie Preserve.  

Last year, in 2015, some of our Galveston Bay Area Chapter- Texas Master Naturalist (GBA-TMN) friends and TERN volunteers helped us to create wooden decoys of black skimmers for some of the colonies found on the east border of Texas at a Motiva refinery. We have seen this species of bird many times try for successful nests in the most unlikely locations. These birds often select nesting sites that are designed for human use such as parking lots because the conditions of the space often resemble suitable nesting material for ground nesters (gravel rock, open areas, very little or no vegetation). By placing these decoys in a strategic area, we can promote nesting in safer locations that are better for chic rearing by designate an area away from human activities and protecting them from predators!


We are so thankful for our TERN volunteers and our partners in the Texas Master Naturalist program for their diligence and help with our decoys! If the birds could talk, I’m sure they would thank you too!

The Audubon TERN program is citizen science program designed to connect volunteers in the community to real conservation working with Audubon Texas Coastal Conservation staff and partners. Citizen science data collection for waterbirds in foraging habitats and nesting habitats provides scientists with the information they need to make better management decision in protecting these bird species and their habitats. In addition to monitoring bird species, TERN volunteers have helped with numerous restoration workdays which include enhancing nesting islands in the fall by removing trash and planting beneficial plants as well as assisting other projects related to nesting birds and habitats.  

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