Alternate Title

Heat Death of Least Tern Chicks on the Gulfport, Mississippi, Beach in 1980

Document Type

Short Communication


The Least Tern is among the smallest of the long-winged flyers and an indescribably ethereal impression emanates from it in flight. Thus great interest was generated when this tern began to nest on the mainland beach of Mississippi Sound about 12 years ago. In 1980, Least Tern chicks died in numbers on the beach and this generated considerable comment and some bombast. An upstate ornithologist announced that poison in the food chain was the cause, but no poison has ever been found in the carcasses of the dead chicks or in the water. The mortality of Least Tern chicks was not caused by Red Tide or disease and by a simple process of exclusion fell to the hottest summer the author ever saw on the Gulf Coast in 51 years, with air temperatures up to 107°F.

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