Great Lakes Naval Station, in northeastern Illinois along Lake Michigan near the town of North Chicago, contains an island that is managed for migratory shorebirds and a colony of breeding Common Terns. With the Navy's permission, the site has been managed by an Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist, Brad Semel. Two electrified fences have been constructed to protect the site from humans and from mammalian predators.

Ornithological Summary

An island just off the Lake Michigan shoreline at the Great Lakes Naval Station harbors the only known nesting location of Common Tern in the state. In addition, the very shallow or exposed sand flats near the island attract migratory shorebirds, including Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers along with the rarer American Avocet, Whimbrel, Willet and Western Sandpiper. In 2001, an Arctic Tern attempted to nest with a Common Tern in the colony.

This site was chosen as an IBA because it met the criteria for breeding Common Tern.

Conservation Issues

Primary concerns focus on the uncontrolled development of brush on the island, rising lake levels or effect of wave action on the island, and effects of mammalian and avian predation on breeding bird populations on the island.


The island is under ownership of the United States Department of Defense under the advisement of the Navy.


The habitat surrounding the sandbar island on Lake Michigan is primarily low brush dominated by aggressive invasives and woody invaders such as purple loosestrife, phragmites and willows. Work is being done to remove some of the invaders as well as protect the sandbar island where Common Terns nest.

Land Use

Ongoing protection of bird populations, habitat restoration, and banding of juveniles over the last several years.

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