Distribution Britain 110 (-18.5%) Ireland 36 (-30.8%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 2,400 Ireland 390
European status: 21,500 (13% in Britain and Ireland =2)
British population trend: better because of protection
How likely are you to record it? 4 squares (0.1%) Ranked 167=
The Little Tern, with its very well camouflaged eggs and beach nesting habit, can easily be trampled out of existence at colonies where human feet intrude. As if this was not hazard enough some colonies become seaside burger bars for predators like foxes and Kestrels. A hundred years ago the Little Terns were in a poor state with declining colonies from Sussex to Yorkshire and on the North-west coast (Ravenglass was the only protected colony). It was doing better in Wales, but in Scotland it was only found south from the Moray Firth. Some nested on the Isle of Man and in Ireland there were colonies along the east coast and from Clare to Donegal. In 1984 there were 257 pairs counted, less than 15 years earlier, but the total was down to 174 pairs by 1995. In Scotland the birds have expanded their range northwards to Caithness (even Orkney) and there are several colonies now along the West coast and in the Outer Hebrides probably 300 pairs in all. There may be over 50 pairs in Isle of Man and in Wales (Flintshire and, possibly, Llyn peninsula) but the stronghold is undoubtedly England and particularly East Anglia. Well over three-quarters of the population (about 2,000) breed from Lincolnshire to Hampshire. Modern protection, the provision of shelters for the nestlings, predator control and fencing can be very successful leading to excellent productivity from concentrated colonies. Given proper protection and encouragement these birds can do well.
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