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State Parks needs volunteers for weekly 2-hour shifts to help monitor the endangered California Least Tern!

The endangered California Least Tern (Sternula antillarum browni; CLT) is a migratory, water-associated bird that returns to coastal California each year from Central America to breed, April - September. Adults are about 10 inches long with a 30-inch wingspan and gray back with white under-parts, black cap and lore with a white forehead, black-tipped wings, and a yellow beak with dark tip. Young birds are brownish-gray with a scaly appearance, black head lacking the white triangle on the forehead and a dark beak. CLTs used to be very abundant, nesting on open white-sandy beaches along the length of California from San Francisco Bay to Baja California, Mexico. They are colonial and prefer beaches near estuaries, lagoons, and rivers. The nest of the Least Tern is a simple shallow scrape in the sand, sometimes lined with shells, pebbles, bits of wood, or plant material, containing one to three eggs. Both parents incubate the nest usually for 21-23 days until hatching. CLTs are piscivorous, plunge-diving for fish in our near-shore waters. Fledging, or becoming flighted usually happens within three weeks of hatching.

The Huntington State Beach Natural Preserve colony has been active for decades and is currently the biggest local contributor to the potential recovery of this species. In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, there are seven Least Tern nesting areas that have been used since 1986: Venice Beach, Los Angeles Harbor, Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, Burris Basin, and Huntington State Beach. In 2016, a minimum of 636 breeding pairs were reported for these colonies. A minimum of two pairs were documented at Venice Beach, 109 at Los Angeles Harbor, 73 at Seal Beach National Wildlife Reserve (NWR), 124 at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, 18 at Upper Newport Ecological Reserve, six at Burris Basin, two at Anaheim Lake, and 304 at Huntington State Beach.

Least Terns were once collected for their feathers, to adorn women's hats. However, habitat destruction and disruption comprise the biggest threat to CLTs since today they compete with millions of people for beach space. CLT nesting is now confined to about 50 protected sites, set aside just for tern nesting, like the 8.6 acre site on Huntington State Beach at the mouth of the Santa Ana River. The Huntington Beach Colony needs your help! Because the terns are so concentrated in a relatively small area, they attract predators. In order to react to predators and protect the nesting terns, we're asking you to become part of the eyes on the colony program. Help protect endangered Least Terns by selecting a weekly time slot to walk the outer edge of the colony, scan for and report predator sightings and issues. You'll also serve in a docent role, interpreting least terns and snowy plovers to park visitors.

Please come to the informational meeting on April 25th at Huntington State Beach! For more information and to RSVP, please email leastternsHB@gmail.com Perks include comradery with fellow volunteers, a parking pass if minimum volunteer commitment requirements are met, and satisfaction in knowing that your efforts are directly helping a species in peril.