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Eviction notice: Observation of a Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) usurping an active Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) Nest

August 12, 2019

Although nest usurpation is common in some species and orders of birds, usurpation has rarely been reported for Sterninae. We observed a Sterna hirundo (Common Tern) egg in an active Sternula antillarum(Least Tern) nest with a complete clutch in a mixed-species Sterninae colony in Chesapeake Bay, MD, in May 2018. Based on observations from a game camera following usurpation, Common Terns incubated the mixed-species clutch, with no further parental care provided by the usurped Least Tern. The clutch never hatched, as the Common Terns abandoned the nest prior to the hatching. While we suspect that Common Terns usurped the Least Tern nest, alternative scenarios may explain how the Common Tern egg was documented in a Least Tern nest.