Distribution Britain 303 (-15.7%) Ireland 72 (-19.1%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 44,000 Ireland 2,500
European status: 520,000 (9% in Britain and Ireland =2)
British population trend: bad, largely because of mink
How likely are you to record it? 12 squares (0.3%) Ranked 145= [93=]
This species is the northerly member of the 'comic' group whose general distribution in Britain and Ireland has changed little in the last hundred years. Apart from substantial colonies on the Northumberland Islands and Ynys Mon (Anglesey) there are generally only a few dozen pairs breeding south of the Lowlands of Scotland within bigger colonies of Common Terns. Early in the 19th century there had been a good number on the Scillies and only 30 years ago 200 pairs at the entrance to Morecambe Bay. The Irish situation is described under Common Tern (above) but the numbers are encouraging with 1,041 (1969/70 coastal colonies only), 2,460 (1984 all) and 3,092 (1995 all). The Scottish colonies illustrate the fickle nature of the species with huge shifts from year to year. For example there were 750 on Foula in 1973; 1,800 in 1975 and 6,000 in 1976 and 400 on nearby Papa Stour in 1969-79, 3,000 ten years later (1978-80) and then 10,000 in 1981. However all is not well. There have been massive breeding failures over the last 15 years in Shetland and the population has seriously declined, probably due to the inability of the birds to catch sufficient (any?) sand-eels. Mink and global warming pose further problems. The long-term prospects for Arctic Terns do not look at all good.
Hannon, C., Berrow, S.D. & Newton, S.F. 1997 Irish Birds: 6, 1-22.
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead