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The majestic Tent Gull in its natural habitat.

Tent Gulls and Roof Terns Make Your Home Theirs

Project Puffin Research Intern Aubrey Alamshah shares her experiences working on Maine’s Eastern Egg Rock Island. If you missed part one of her travelogue, catch up here!

“There are no trees on Eastern Egg Rock Island. Nor are there any real buildings with the exception of the Hilton (a simple wooden shack) and the Outhouse. The island, of course, is home to many thousands of birds, and if you know anything about birds you know that they love to perch up high – or at least on anything that puts them even slightly higher than the other birds. The absence of trees and buildings makes perching space a hot commodity, and almost as soon as we had finished putting up our tents, they were immediately claimed by gulls, which came to be affectionately known as the Tent Gulls.


Common Tern

After a few days we got to know our Tent Gulls pretty well, and they even had names. Waldo and Wanda, who claimed Kaitlyn’s tent, were notoriously bad neighbors, waking her up at 4 in the morning and chattering late into the night. Mort had taken ownership of Rebeca’s tent, where he seemed quite content to spend all day if we let him, and it was quite often we’d return from a stint to find him there taking an afternoon nap. My own Tent Gull I named Boo, as he was very shy and stayed away when he could see me, but every morning while I was still in the process of waking up he would crash land onto the top of my tent and scare me half to death.

Tents were small-time property, though. The prime real-estate was the roof of the Hilton, which was guarded diligently and zealously by the Roof Terns. The Roof Terns are a pair of Common Terns who decided to claim the Southeast corner or the Egg Rock Hilton as their own, and will loudly and violently defend it against anyone who dares come close. We’d often hear the patter of Laughing Gull feet landing on the roof only to be immediately chased away. We all knew not to go on the roof without expecting angry protests from one or both of the Roof Terns. Even when they were busy building their nest or tending their eggs, they made it very clear that trespassing on their roof was not appreciated.

We also had a Window Tern who nested right outside the window to the Hilton, and a Compost Tern, who nested right next to our compost pile and would attempt to cover anyone doing the dishes or tossing out the compost in as much poop as possible. I guess when you live on an island full of birds you have to make some compromises, and if I’m going to have to deal with a few rude neighbors, I could do a lot worse than Tent Gulls and Roof Terns.”

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