Sandwich tern’s age flagged by banding officials
While out checking to see if the islands’ snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) had laid any eggs yet, a Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation shorebird biologist noticed a banded sandwich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis) in breeding plumage last week. By slowly walking around the flock from a respectable distance, she was able to photograph the bird’s band from multiple angles and obtain the full ID number. After reporting the number to the USGS Bird Banding Lab, the report was initially flagged as problematic due to the old age of the bird. However, with photos they were able to verify that the tern was in fact banded as a chick at a colony in Dare County, North Carolina, on July 1, 1996 – making the bird 24 years old. According to the BBL’s longevity records, the oldest known sandwich tern lived to the age of 31. To try and read a metal number on a band, be sure to give the bird plenty of space. Never flush resting birds, as they need all their energy for their upcoming migrations back to their breeding grounds. Some shorebirds will fly several thousand miles in the coming weeks.