Outer Green Island

A thriving seabird colony before millinery hunting decimated the colonies.

Location and Description: This 5-acre island sits at the head of Casco Bay, 5 miles east of Portland, Cumberland County. Outer Green Island is owned by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). The island is cooperatively managed by the National Audubon Society and MDIFW with logistic support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Gulf of Maine Program.

Seabird and Restoration History: Outer Green Island was a thriving seabird colony before millinery hunting decimated this and other Casco Bay colonies at the end of the 19th century. Before restoration was initiated in 2002, terns last nested in 1914. In 2002, using a combination of pyrotechnics and human presence to deter nesting gulls, and decoys and recorded sounds to attract breeding terns, we began work to bring terns back to the island. Common Terns responded quickly to the methods with several pairs nesting in the first year of restoration. In recent years, about 1000 pairs of Common Terns and several pairs of Roseate Terns have nested here. Conceived as a mammal-free nesting island, this has proved largely true, though a mink swam to the island in 2005.

Access: The island is closed to public visitation during the seabird breeding season (April 1 to August 31). Organized tours occasionally visit the island by boat for viewing the restored tern colony and to search for vagrants (contact Freeport Wild Bird Supply for more information). Staff transportation to the island is provided by either staff of the USFWS Gulf of Maine Program or by local volunteers. We depart from the Falmouth town landing and the trip takes approximately 30 minutes. All food, water, gear and personal equipment are rowed ashore in a small inflatable rowboat (stored on the island). Audubon and USFWS staff share rowing responsibilities. The landing is often difficult due to the lack of protection from prevailing winds and seas; high tide is usually the preferred time to land.

Island Living and Accommodations: During the field season, 2-3 people live and work on the island. A large canvas tent serves as base camp and accommodates food storage and research equipment. The "kitchen" boasts a propane stove, however there is no refrigeration. There are three tent platforms for personal use and a composting toilet on the island.

Nesting and Migratory Birds: Breeding waterbirds include Arctic, Common and Roseate Terns, Black Guillemots and Common Eiders. Outer Green is an exceptional place for migrants; 194 species (including breeding birds) have been recorded on the island since 2002, including notable records for Bridled Tern, Magnificent Frigatebird, Yellow-throated Warbler and Seaside Sparrow.

Island Monitoring, Research and Management Projects: The Outer Green Island field season begins in mid May and continues through late July. Work includes, but is not limited to, the following projects: annual tern, guillemot and eider census; tern and guillemot productivity and chick growth; tern provisioning studies; vegetation monitoring and management; daily weather and bird lists; and predator management.

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