Birding Report: March 15

elegantternThis week when I write about the Elegant Tern, our Bird of the Week. I am also writing to beseech you to not bring your dogs to the lovely and federally protected Estero Soldado.

The Elegant Tern is now beginning to migrate through our area. You will soon find large flocks of them resting at the mouth of Estero Soldado and loudly diving for fish in the Bahía San Francisco. According to, the Elegant Tern “is considered Near Threatened as it has a restricted breeding range, with more than 90% of the breeding population being restricted to a single island.” That island is the Isla Raza which is almost directly west of Hermosillo near the Baja coast in the Sea of Cortez.

When the Elegants arrive here, they are checking into our Estero Soldado “bird motel” to rest and recover from flights as far away as Chile in South America. We are fortunate to have the Caspian and Royal Terns around us almost all winter. The Elegant Tern visits in the fall and spring and is the smallest of the three. It gets its name from its bill which is longer and less clunky than the others.

If you see the Terns together, it is easy to spot the Elegant because it is smaller, but size is not a good marker when a bird is alone. If it is only with others just like it, look at the orange bill. It has a slight downturn (decurved in bird idiom) and is rather thin appearing. It is also known for its black shaggy crest, but I have found that when the wind is blowing the other terns can appear “shaggy” also. When it is flying, I usually identify it by the noise it makes. IBird Pro calls its call “a grating karreck, karreck.” That is it exactly and it does love to “karreck” joyously with its mates while fishing.

Now to my plea. I think the New Zealand Ahuriri Wildlife Refuge says it perfectly on its website: “Dogs are instinctive hunters and most just love to chase birds. Although this may seem a harmless source of exercise to the dog’s owners, it does interrupt the essential rest and feeding time available to these birds. The result is they either don’t recover sufficiently to enable them to successfully negotiate their migrations, or they are in such weak condition when they do arrive at their destination that they are extremely vulnerable to natural predation and disease.” Of course, not all the birds will die and your dog may only be chasing one or two or maybe your dog is that rare canine that never chases birds at all. But by taking your dog to the estuary, you are sending a message to other dog owners that it is OK. Their dog may be one of those “instinctive hunters.” I know mine is. I take him for long walks on the beach but not to the Estero Soldado “bird motel.” It is illegal for your dog to be in there and that includes the mouth of the estuary near Condominios Pilar. CEDES, the State of Sonora agency charged by the Mexican Federal government to protect the estuary, has few funds. You may not be caught. But you will be guilty. Please do your part to protect the birds and show yourself as a respectful visitor to this country.

The Birding Group will meet this Thursday at the Esterito Cafe in Bahía San Carlos at 8:00am. We will be heading to Estero Soldado. All are welcome. Questions? E-mail me at [email protected]

by Mary Tannehill

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