Recovered Midwestern bird soars off endangered species list

In this 2010 photo, a least tern checks her two eggs on the beach in Gulfport, Miss. The bird was taken off the endangered species list, federal officials said Tuesday.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The interior least tern, a hardy Midwestern bird that survived a craze for its plumage and dam-building that destroyed much of its habitat, has soared off the endangered species list.

Federal officials said Tuesday that 35 years of legal protection and habitat restoration efforts had brought the tern back from the brink of extinction.

The smallest members of the tern family, weighing less than 2 ounces, mostly on small fish and build nests on the ground. While most least terns are considered seabirds, some species live by rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Their most important nesting areas are along more than 2,800 miles river channels in the Great Plains and the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Their numbers plummeted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when their feathers became a popular feature of women’s hats.

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