Distribution Britain 426 (-7.0%) Ireland 98 (-43.4%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 12,300 Ireland 3,100
European status: 210,000 (8% in Britain and Ireland =4)
British population trend: probably quite good
How likely are you to record it? 102 squares (2.3%) Ranked [77=]
The Common Tern is the commonest tern over the southern half of Britain but is out-numbered by the Arctic in the northern half of the country. It is another species that was badly affected by predation for millinery (mainly the wings) and eggs for food. By 1900 there were rather few colonies round the English coasts, in Anglesey in Wales but more round Scotland and Ireland (inland also in the northern and western parts). The Irish birds were thought to far outnumber Arctic Terns on the East coast earlier this century but this was reversed in South and West. By 1970 the Common/Arctic ratio was 2.8:1 but the species had reached parity on the coast by 1984 with Common still outnumbering Arctic by six to one inland. Numbers were 2,848 in 1984 and 3,053 in 1995. In Scotland the Isle of May had over 5,000 pairs in the mid-1940s but it was extinguished by the expanding colony of large gulls. After culling the gulls, there are now several hundred pairs and about 4,000 in Scotland. Mink predation exacts a terrible toll in areas like Argyll, Harris and Lewis. In Wales the birds only breed regularly in Anglesey and Flint. The English population has gradually expanded inland and on artificial sites where rafts have been made for them. Prospects probably good in areas where they are looked after.
Hannon, C., Berrow, S.D. & Newton, S.F. 1997 Irish Birds: 6, 1-22.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead