How difficult is the job of protecting our...


July 29, 1993

YOU REALIZE how difficult is the job of protecting our shores when an unauthorized immigrant just flies here and lands. Birders are excited because the first whiskered tern ever seen in North America is wandering around the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge along the Delaware River near Dover in Delaware.

Its habitat is Europe and North Africa and Southwest Asia. As far as anyone knows, it just flew across the Atlantic, first to Cape May, N.J., where it was spotted on July 12. That in itself is not so unusual.

But then it crossed the Delaware Bay and settled in. That is unusual.

Many questions arise: Can we protect the tern gene pool of the Western Hemisphere? Can we control what comes to our shores and what does not? Is this a case for the INS? Should we worry so much about endangered species when we have uninvited species? Was our visitor following the mighty four-engined birds that land at Dover Air Force Base? American raptors occasionally sighted in Ireland need not fly so far as this bird evidently did.

Meanwhile, it's good for Delaware tourism. A number of people have dropped everything to fly to see an authentic whiskered tern.

Someone in Delaware might be tempted to confine the thing and charge admission to see it, before it flies south to Maryland.

Purists who believe all specimens should stick with their own kind cannot be amused. If everything has its place, this bird's place is not here. But how do you tell a whiskered tern to fly back where it came from? Especially if you don't speak whiskered tern?

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