Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Service Initiates Status Review of Van Rossem's Gull-Billed Tern

Jun 08, 2010

June 8, 2010
Contact: Jane Hendron, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office - 760/431-9440 ext. 205


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Initiates Status Review of Van Rossem’s Gull-Billed Tern 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it has determined that a petition to list the Van Rossem’s gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica vanrossemi) as either threatened or endangered provides substantial information indicating listing may be warranted. A full status review of this subspecies will now be undertaken to determine whether to propose listing the species under the Endangered Species Act.

The official finding will be published on June 9, but an advance copy is available for viewing at

The Service is seeking comments and information on all aspects of this subspecies, including its biology, population trends, genetics and taxonomy, and habitat requirements. We will accept comments and information until August 9, 2010.

Comments and information about Van Rossem’s gull-billed tern and its habitat can be submitted electronically to  In the box that reads “Enter Keyword or ID,” enter the Docket number for this finding, which is FWS-R8-ES-2010-0035.  Check the box that reads “Open for Comment/Submission,” and then click the Search button.  You should then see an icon that reads “Submit a Comment.”  Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.

If submitting comments by hard copy or hand delivery, please send them to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2010-0035, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.

The Van Rossem’s gull-billed tern is a medium sized seabird with a heavy black bill. It has pale, pearly gray upper parts, wings, and tail, with white underparts, and wing linings. During breeding season, the birds develop a black cap extending from the lores (region between eye and bill), including the eyes, to the nape.

In the United States, the subspecies is known to nest at only two locations – the Salton Sea and southern San Diego Bay. The extent of its wintering range is not known, but likely includes the Pacific coast of Mexico, Central America, and possibly northwestern South America. Van Rossem’s gull-billed terns feed on a variety of items, including crabs, lizards, insects, small fish, and may prey on the chicks of other shorebird species.

Based on a review of documents provided in support of the petition and information readily available in our files, we determined substantial information indicates the Van Rossem’s gull-billed tern may be threatened by loss of nesting and foraging habitat, predation, inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms; and a variety of other natural and manmade threats, including intentional killing of the subspecies, potential impacts from climate change, and contaminants.

This is the first step in a process that begins with a more thorough status review, including a request for information about the subspecies and its habitat from state and federal resource agencies, the scientific community, and other knowledgeable parties. 

Based on the status review, we will make one of three possible determinations: (1) listing is not warranted, in which case no further action will be taken; (2) listing as threatened or endangered is warranted, and a proposed rule to list the subspecies as endangered or threatened will be published; or (3) listing is warranted but precluded by other, higher priority activities. This means the species is added to the list of candidate species. A warranted but precluded finding requires subsequent annual reviews of the finding until such time as either a listing proposal is published, or a not warranted finding is made based on new information.

The mission of the Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit


                                                                                 - FWS -