One Good Tern. . .

. . . deserves another, as the saying goes.

The birds in this photo are least terns, whose nesting habitat, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “is found . . . on sandy beaches along the southern coasts of the United States and up the major river systems far into the interior of the continent.”

Certainly, Lake Oahe counts as “far into the interior”, though they also nest along the Missouri River as far north and west as Montana. On Lake Oahe, they can be found standing along remote shorelines, floating peacefully on the water or resting on the rubber tire breakwaters at Spring Creek. Occasionally, their rest is interrupted by sailor/photographers who like to motor close to the tires just to watch the birds take flight.

Lewis and Clark observed these birds and wrote about them in their journals. They even took two specimens for their collection. The birds were dead, of course, though I guess you could say the same about Lewis and Clark these days. . . .

Living least terns go south in the winter, along with other South Dakota snowbirds. Where do they go? Mexico and South Padre Island are possibilities. But not Phoenix or Sun City.

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