Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Use of Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) burrows as shelter by Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) chicks

June 21, 2018

The availability of shelter to avoid predation and ameliorate physiologically stressful conditions is often important to the survival of avian hatchlings. However, as changes in habitat availability force birds to nest in nontraditional locations, young must quickly adapt to using novel sources of shelter. Two Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) colonies (one vegetated and one barren) were observed during the 2017 breeding season on a remote island habitat restoration project during data collection for a larger associated study. While chicks within the vegetated colony sought shade under vegetation, those in the barren colony were frequently found under anthropogenically constructed chick shelters. The first reported instance of Common Tern chicks using Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) burrows for shelter was also observed in the barren colony. This behavior, when paired with other similar reports, suggests that this species is able to recognize beneficial shelters, both natural and anthropogenic, and use them at a young age, an important ability if they are to successfully reproduce in atypical habitats