Do a Good Tern

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve suffered a great loss during the 2021 bird breeding season. On May 11, 2021 a drone crashed on North Tern Island which caused approximately 3,000 Elegant Terns to abandon their nests. CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) estimates that over 1,500 eggs were lost as a result of this incident. We here at the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, along with a community of supporters, are devastated by the loss of the Terns. CDFW with assistance from Wildlife Officers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services are working diligently to investigate this incident.


What makes these birds so special you might ask? The Elegant Tern population is estimated to be 100,000 to 150,000, and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is one of only three nesting sites in all of Southern California. The Reserve is considered critical habitat for a number of species of concern, including the highly vulnerable Elegant Tern.


The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve has a total of 5 nesting sites spread out amongst 1,449 acres, and 5 different tern species are commonly observed during the spring and summer months on the Reserve. In late summer, the Terns will begin their journey back home, with their winter range extending as far south as Peru and northern Chile. The California Least Tern, a federally listed endangered species, is one of the more vulnerable Tern species to nest on the Reserve. Each year, the Conservancy conducts a citizen science program called EONS (Eyes on Nest Sites) to monitor this species of concern during the breeding season. Volunteers spend their time observing and recording Least Tern behavior, while scanning for predators and other threats.


CDFW, in partnership with the Bolsa Chica Conservancy and other nonprofits working at Bolsa Chica, is working to develop and implement a new volunteer program to help monitor activities in the Reserve. This program’s goal will be to train volunteers to be equipped to educate visitors about the natural resources, preservation, history, rules and regulations at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. All volunteers will go through an intensive training program which will prepare them for the special opportunity to work directly in the field to protect one of our last remaining wetlands. For more information about this developing program, please contact the Bolsa Chica Conservancy at (714) 846-1114 or visit our website at


Also, in response to the tragic drone incident of May 11th, the Conservancy has organized a fundraising campaign to raise funds to develop and install new educational signage throughout the reserve to help achieve greater understanding of visitors about the reasons behind the Reserve’s prohibitions on drones, dogs and bikes. For more information about donating to this cause, please visit our website.