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Davis, T. 1984. St. Louis River Estuary Colonial Bird Program 1984. Report submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 23 pp.


The St. Louis River estuary is a site renown for its colonial waterbirds. Due to the special status given them by state and federal agencies, the nesting populations of the Common Tern and Piping Plover are of particular interest. The tern has an official status of Special Concern in Minnesota (6 MCAR 1.5600) and is considered a species of Special Emphasis in Region 3 (Regional Resource Plan, USFWS, 1983) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The state of Wisconsin, which shares the estuary with Minnesota, considers the tern endangered. The Piping Plover has an official status of Endangered in Minnesota (6 MCAR 1.5600) and Wisconsin and is under consideration for federal Threatened status. This history of these species in the estuary and the urgent need to intensively monitor and manage their populations has been thoroughly documented.

During the past several years, the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) has played a lead role in advocating and implementing various management practices regarding Common Terns and Piping Plovers nesting in the estuary. These efforts coalesced in 1983 when ARDC and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Nongame Wildlife Program initiated a comprehensive, coordinated Colonial Bird Management Program for the estuary. The MDNR contracted ARDC to oversee and implement the program.

The need for and goals of the program are given in some detail in the report which was submitted to the MDNR following the 1983 work (ARDC, 1983). The overall objectives are:

  1. To monitor the nesting status of the Common Tern and Piping Plover in the St. Louis estuary, and
  2. To implement various plans to protect and preserve the Common Tern and Piping Plover populations including development of secure and suitable nesting sites.

One of the major components of the program has involved work on two islands located near the major tern and plover nesting area in the estuary - Hearding and Interstate Islands. These islands are being developed as Common Tern and Piping Plover nesting areas. The plan is to clear woody vegetation from portions of the islands to create open, sandy beach where terns and plovers can nest. Approximately 11 acres of Hearding Island were cleared for this purpose in the spring of 1983. To actively encourage birds to use the island, a system of tapes and decoys has been used. Interstate Island will be managed in a similar manner once easements have been secured from private landholders.

The program was continued in 1984 and ARDC once again was contracted by the MDNR to implement it. This report presents the results of this second year's efforts.