Florida is home to the only U.S. breeding population of Sooty Terns. A huge colony of over 25,000 pairs exists on Bush Key, which lies within Dry Tortugas National Park. The population was once much larger, but eggers from Cuba decimated the colony during the 18th and 19th centuries. John James Audubon visited the Dry Tortugas in 1832 and estimated that over eight tons of eggs had been harvested. Like the Bridled Tern, they are also recorded outside of their typical Florida range on offshore pelagic trips and during the hurricane season. Following storms, Sooty Terns have been recorded at many sites throughout the state, including Bald Point State Park, Huguenot Memorial Park, Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier and Lighthouse Point Park. Sooty Terns are regularly recorded on pelagic trips organized by the Marine Science Center in Volusia County.
Recommended GFBWT site:
For more information, including a range map and sound recording, visit whatBird.com's Field Guide to Birds of North America.
Sooty Terns nest on isolated tropical and subtropical islands, in flat, open areas; they’re entirely pelagic when not nesting.