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[Request Advice] LETE Breeding Season


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Hi Colleagues, 

I hope everyone is well.  My name is Luis A. Ramos, I am a Master’s degree student at the University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez campus, and a grantee from BirdsCaribbean’s David Lee Fund. My species of interest is the Least Tern (Sterna antillarum). My goal is to study the chick's diet through DNA Metabarcoding from fecal samples.
 
I did a pilot study this past breeding season, but I am concerned because there seemed to be zero fledging survival. I found 102 eggs in 58 nests, 34 hatched, but they all disappeared in a few days after hatching. The oldest chick recorded was 8 days old. 
 
A camera trap recorded a Yellow-crowned Night-heron depredating a chick, and a few times walking around nests as if looking for prey. I randomly installed 20 chicks shelters (teepee types), but even when they were used, I could not find out what happened afterwards. Since it is an open area, and they were so young, I don’t think it is not possible that they flew away.
 
I am looking for advice and options for the next breeding season. For instance, I am considering installing enclosures around the nests, like those used to protect breeding Piping Plovers but without the top, using smaller mesh holes (1"x1"), and shorter (2.5') and smaller circumference (3' to 5').
 
I would like to ask for comments or suggestions from the seabird experts in this group. 
 
I am also available to have a virtual meeting if anyone is willing to share some ideas.
 
Thanks,

Luis

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