By Dr Amy Adams, Coastal Birds Program Coordinator, Birdlife Australia
Terns are seabirds with a global distribution and are generally found along the coastline near the ocean and on islands. Terns depend on both the marine and coastal terrestrial environment, ‘fishing’ out at sea but roosting and nesting on nearby shores. They typically nest on islands, estuaries and wide beaches, and they prefer to nest in colonies which can contain thousands of nesting birds! The Fairy Tern is one of Australia’s smallest (20-24 cm) and most threatened seabird. Like all tern species, their diet consists almost entirely of fish which both adults and chicks eat whole, head first!
The beach-nesting lifestyle of terns leaves them extremely vulnerable during the breeding season to a range of threats including disturbance (largely human recreational beach activities including 4WDs and off leash dogs), predation by introduced mammalian species and native birds, weed encroachment, climate change, inappropriate water management and low prey availability. Threats cause either the direct destruction of eggs (e.g. trampled, eaten) or cause the adults to leave the nests resulting in eggs becoming unviable (too hot or too cold) or being predated or buried in the sand. Due to these threats, Fairy Terns are currently experiencing major population declines in south-eastern Australia. Large breeding colonies are becoming a rarity and many historical breeding sites are now vacant. Monitoring of Fairy Terns is critical for identifying threats and population trends which can guide conservation efforts to mitigate threats and enhance breeding success and survival. But we need your help! If you are out on the water or visiting beaches during summer and you spot a Fairy Tern, you can help save them by reporting your sightings to BirdLife Australia ([email protected]).
Click here for more information about terns and how you can help save the Fairy Terns: https://www.birdlife.org.au/documents/BNB-Fairy-Tern_flip_guide-2021.pdf