The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has removed the Interior Least Tern from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife, saying the population has largely recovered.
The tiny bird is white and black with a bright yellow beak and long legs. It nests along the sand and gravel bars of the Lower Mississippi River and its tributaries, the Missouri, Red, Ohio and Arkansas rivers.
Years of river damming and engineering destroyed the terns’ nesting habitat and its population plummeted to less than 2,000 in 1985, when it was listed as endangered.
Leopoldo Miranda, Southeast Regional Director of the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said there are now nearly 20,000.
“This is a great great day for conservation and for that great little bird that we all love,” he said during a press conference. “This accomplishment took many years”
Officials say they worked with multiple states and agencies over decades to create new habitat around bays, large rivers and salt flats, and to limit development in those areas.
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