Caribbean Ecological Services
Oficina de Servicios Ecológicos del Caribe -- Southeast Region
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the completion of 5-year reviews for the Roseate Tern   

Press Release (en Español)
November 23, 2010

Contact: Lilibeth Serrano Vélez 787-505-4397 ó 787-851-7297 EXT 212

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Presentation on recovery efforts for the Caribbean Roseate tern

PDF Presentation on Roseate Tern Recovery efforts

Power Point Presentation

5 Yr Review

The roseate tern (Sterna dougallii dougallii) a migratory coastal seabird, was listed as endangered in northeastern North America and threatened in the Caribbean on November 2, 1987.  The USFWS started a status review of the roseate tern on December 16, 2008.  On April 5, 2010 the USFWS expanded the scope of the 5-year review to include the Caribbean population. 

Based on the best available information, the Service recommends maintaining the status for the species classified as endangered in the North Atlantic and threatened in the Caribbean.  The Caribbean roseate tern still meets the definition of a threatened species because disease or predation, and other natural or manmade factors continue to threaten its continued existence throughout the Caribbean.

The Caribbean roseate tern or “palometa” is a medium-sized tern, primarily white, slender-winged and long-tailed.  It has a black crown, pale grey upper surface and immaculate white underparts.  The three or four outer primaries (wing feathers) of roseate terns are frosted with silver-grey and edged with black.    The species owes its name to the rose color of the chest and belly early in the breeding season.  Three-quarters of the bill in Caribbean roseate terns gradually become reddish orange during the breeding season.  The species breeds in large, dense single or mixed species colonies.  It remains gregarious throughout the year, roosting in large groups.

Puerto Rico

The number of nesting pairs during the period 1990-2000 fluctuated from a low of 217 to a high of 731 nesting pairs in 1994 and 2000, respectively.  Significant fluctuations were observed between 2001 and 2009, although an increasing trend is apparent.  In Puerto Rico, roseate terns nest on off-shore cays near the coasts of Lajas, Manatí, Barceloneta, Culebra, Guayanilla, and Vieques.

U.S. Virgin Islands

The total number of nests varied among years from 500 to 2,300 pairs.  Variability in the number of nests from year to year is high because roseate terns shift colony sites between the USVI and other areas outside the U.S. jurisdiction.  In recent years, roseate terns nested at 17 different cays around the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Call to action:

The public can help in the recovery of this species because recreational activities in proximity to roseate tern colonies and visitation to breeding colonies are a significant source of disturbance to breeding terns.  Egg collection continues to be a major source of egg loss and colony desertion in many Caribbean roseate tern colonies.  Stay away from areas where roseate terns are nesting, usually between May to late July.  To report sightings of dead or alive roseate terns and colony locations call 787-851-7297.  You can learn to identify the species, its threats and ways to help by visiting us at .

The principal basis for this review is the scientific literature published since the respective recovery plans were completed including data collected by Service biologists and species experts during the past 20 years in PR and the USVI.  In the USVI, personnel from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources have conducted monitoring efforts.  As a result of these efforts, knowledge on the biology, feeding ecology, and habitat use of the Caribbean roseate tern has expanded, particularly for populations in Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Service biologists have conducted population assessments of the Puerto Rico and Virgin Island roseate tern populations since 1990.  Service personnel assisted by volunteers do boat and aerial surveys as well as complete nest counts at the roseate tern breeding colonies.  At the beginning of each nesting season, the teams survey nesting pairs and latter in the season they count the number of chicks and fledglings.  While surveying the beaches, the teams also document threats which include parasites and predation from fire ants, gulls, ruddy turnstones, peregrine falcon, rats and other unidentified mammals.  Some years, they trap adults and older chicks to place identification bands on their legs to study the birds’ movement and distribution.  These bands have allowed scientists to find out the areas where Caribbean roseate terns migrate to after breeding, and what threats they may be exposed to in those areas. 
View/download copies of the 5 year reviews
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.   Please visit the Service’s websites at,
Last updated: November 23, 2010