Paragliders Terned On

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Well, we've heard those who fly motorized paragliders called a few names but "huge and noisy predators" was new to us. Unless, of course, you're a California least tern intent on ensuring there are future generations of your species. The airspace over California's Ormond Beach, near Oxnard, has become a battleground between environmentalists determined to preserve one of the terns' last nesting places and paraglider pilots who have recently discovered that it's a great place to fly. In an Op-Ed piece in the Ventura County Star, environmentalist Janet Bridgers said that in a single summer, the paragliders destroyed 16 years of work that had enabled the local tern population to grow to about 200 nesting pairs. A little natural history lesson gives some insight into why the two types of flying creatures are incompatible. Terns nest in the sand and their eggs and chicks are constantly under the scrutiny of various aerial predators. The adult terns' response to a threat from the air is to launch a mass assault to try to harass the intruder into leaving. While a gull or kestrel might succumb to such tactics, paragliders are apparently more persistent. By mid-summer last year, most of the adult terns had abandoned their nests in frustration. In her article, Bridgers rhetorically asks wildlife authorities to kick the paragliders off the beach and leave it to the terns and other affected species.