Lossie locals do another good tern for one of UK’s rarest seabirds

Kirsty Nutt

Monday 29 July 2019

Two juvenile little terns at Lossiemouth

Little terns have successfully raised chicks on the beach at Lossiemouth for the second year running thanks to the efforts of a small group of locals

Little terns have raised two chicks this year on the beach at Lossiemouth in Scotland. It is the second year running that little terns have successfully nested on the beach and the number of chicks fledged this year is equal to the number fledged in the entire decade between 2007 and 2017. 

This change of fortunes was made possible by a group of interested locals who, with help from the RSPB, have erected a temporary fence and put up signage to raise awareness around a small area where the birds appeared to be nesting.

Last year, little terns successfully nested on Lossiemouth East Beach for the first time since 2015, raising three chicks. This year, despite only being able to put up the fence along three of the four sides of a similar area, four pairs nested and successfully raised two chicks. These birds are, once again, the only little terns nesting in Moray.

Prior to the work of locals to protect them, little terns were very rarely successful at this location due to unintentional disturbance from walkers, dogs and bikes. However, thanks to the users of the beach avoiding the small fenced-off area and keeping their dogs under control, another two little tern chicks have successfully survived to take their first flight. A pair of ringed plover nesting in the fenced area, which was on Forestry and Land Scotland land near to Lossie Forest, also successfully raised two chicks.

Margaret Sharpe, one of the local volunteers, said: “I have been walking along the beach regularly to check on the birds progress this summer, so it was an absolute delight to see two fledged birds take their first fishing lessons. After years of failure due to increasing disturbance, raising chicks two years in a row is a fantastic achievement for these amazing little birds.”

Approximately the size of a starling but with longer wings and weighing much less, little terns are the UK’s smallest tern. They have distinctive yellow bills with a black tip and a black cap with a white forehead. They tend to feed just offshore, hovering above the water before diving to catch small fish.

Little terns arrive back in the UK in April after spending the winter in Africa and will leave again for the return journey in August. They are famed for their acrobatic courtship displays and can be seen nesting on gravelly beaches in small colonies. However, because they lay eggs on the sand in amongst the shingle, their nests are vulnerable to high tides and predation, which usually occurs following human disturbance. In 2015, only 200 pairs bred in Scotland and only 25 pairs in the east of Scotland, so it is vital that this small colony at Lossiemouth continues to be protected.

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For Media enquiries, please contact:

Kirsty Nutt, RSPB Scotland Communications Manager, on 01224 627869 or 07711 385595.

Editor’s notes:

  • Last year was the first time since 2015 that little terns successfully raised chicks on the beach at Lossiemouth when three pairs raised three chicks. This year four pairs raised two chicks. Whereas between 2007 and 2017 only two chicks were raised, one in 2013 and one in 2015.
  • RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654



Last Updated: Monday 29 July 2019

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Topic: Birds Topic: Conservation Topic: Get involved Topic: Little tern Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Conservation Topic: General Topic: Getting involved Topic: Species conservation Topic: Volunteering