Hubert Hurvey's Least Tern Survey on Red River, 2020


 Support the Interior Least Tern

 Show Your Support for the endangered Interior Least Tern
nesting along the Red River.

 Least Tern

Photo courtesy of Jeff Trahan. See more of Jeff's photos at Jeff Trahan's Louisiana Birds

The population of Interior Least Terns nesting along the Red River (between Shreveport and Natchitoches) has declined drastically this year. This change in population density is due to changes in preferred nesting habitat as a result of altered river dynamics.

The Lock & Dam system which allows navigation of the river has the effect of slowing the flow of the river and buffering the effects of seasonal rains and thaws which tend to scour sand islands of vegetation. Islands that are overgrown with vegetation are not preferred by the Least Tern.

What could possibly be done:

  • Periodically clear existing islands of vegetation.
  • When building dikes, do not connect dikes to the shoreline (prevents land-based predation).
  • Utilize byproducts of dredging operations to create new habitats.
  • Create artificial nesting platforms on derelict barges.
  • Increase the public's awareness of the Interior Least Tern as an endangered subspecies (decrease recreational use of these islands).

If the Arkansas Reach (extension of the navigation channel into Arkansas) is constructed, even more prime habitat will be destroyed. Additional information is available in the September 2003 Newsletter.

 What you can do!

Write, phone, or fax your congressman/senators.  A sample letter can be found here:


Thank you for your support of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge. I hope to see it continue to grow in size and importance in the years to come. Many of us look forward to the day when we can enjoy a facility the equal of those that we visit in so many other areas.

I want to state my concern for the lack of successful nesting by the endangered Least Terns attempting to survive along the Red River and make you aware of the complete nesting failure of all the terns attempting to nest along the 100-mile long stretch of lake and river included in Pool 4 and Pool 5 during 2003. U. S. Army Corps of Engineers surveys found no fledged terns along the part of river from north of Shreveport to south of Natchitoches. During the last two years this piece of the river contained the two most successful colonies nesting in northwest Louisiana. The failure is due primarily to lack of proper sandy island habitat. Improvement in the habitat can be accomplished with very little expense. The only successful nesting was behind newly placed dikes at Poisson Revetment, several miles below Natchitoches, in Pool 3.

Least Terns need sand covered islands to nest successfully. The islands that are forming in the pool areas of the river are now overgrown in vegetation after only one year. All attempts to nest on the same island a second year after its emergence during periods of high water were a failure in 2003. The USACE should abandon its passive program which only counts the Least Terns and develop an active program including those projects that they already know will be of benefit to the terns. The USACE has personnel available and willing to do the work, if the orders come from their leaders for them to proceed. Your help is needed to encourage the decision makers in the Corps to develop a plan, as is called for in the Endangered Species Act, and put the plan into action before next nesting year.

It appears that the USACE will soon ask for funding to extend the navigation channel into Arkansas (The Arkansas Reach). With the creation of the Arkansas Reach, the nesting islands of 600 Least Terns will be flooded. I don't think we should fund the Arkansas Reach until the USACE has demonstrated some concern and made an attempt to help the terns in the portion of the river already dammed. This is a difficult project for me to accept without assurance that the Endangered Species Act will be adhered to by the USACE, and every effort made to save these beautiful birds.

Very truly yours,


BSG member Hubert Hervey has chronicled the nesting successes (and failures) of the endangered Interior Least Tern on the Red River since 1996. Hubert's findings and recommendations to improve the terns' nesting success were published in The Journal of Louisiana Ornithology (JLO), Volume 5, No. 1, Summer 2001 and Louisiana Ornithological Society Newsletter (LOS NEWS), No.199, September 2002. These articles are reproduced electronically with the permission of LOS.

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