Roseate tern in flight, sun shining through its outstretched wings.

A tern in the right direction

  • 25 years

    The age of the oldest roseate tern breeding on the island.
  • 1970s

    The decade the RSPB started to rent the island.
  • 220

    Adult roseate terns were recorded from rings in 2017.

Can you go further for nature?


Coquet Island

Record numbers of roseate terns fledge from the UK’s sole remaining colony.

Coquet Island is one of the RSPB’s smallest reserves, but the most densely populated. Over 44,000 seabirds make this 14 ha island off the Northumberland coast home every year. Along with the iconic puffins, the island holds the sole remaining colony of roseate terns. The “rosys”, as they’re affectionately known, nestle among a throng of Sandwich, common and Arctic terns making up a significant proportion of the UK’s and Europe’s tern meta-population.

Significant decline

The UK’s once widespread roseate tern colonies started to decline significantly from the 1980s eventually leading to all colonies bar Coquet’s being lost. In 2000 the Coquet population was struggling at 34 pairs.

Roseate tern on nest amongst lichen covered rocks

Saving the roseate tern, with your help

With help from dedicated RSPB staff, volunteers and resources provided thanks to generous Coquet Island and Red Alert supporters like you, their fortunes began to change.

Special “rosy nest boxes” were introduced to the island in 2000, along with terraces designed to give this special species the best possible chance of recovery.

Ever since, the island has become “rosycentric”, with the species now benefiting from 24-hour protection from human disturbance, predators and egg collectors. No public landings are permitted at any time on the island, creating a complete haven for these incredible birds. Night watches are conducted by a dedicated member of staff throughout the rosy breeding season from a specially created night hide.

Roseate tern pair, courtship display

With your help


There's still work to be done to develop sites to better homes for roseate terns.


The birds who make their home here are still in desperate need of our ongoing support.


With your help, we can continue to monitor and care for the birds on Coquet Island.

Record numbers

The whole colony plays a role too, acting as defenders of this shyest of terns. The common terns in particular are encouraged to nest alongside the rosy colony, as their aggressive aeriel defence protects the precious rosy chicks by proxy.

This year the rosy colony took a strong step in the right direction as the highest ever number of fledged chicks ever recorded left the island. This unprecedented cache of 166 fledglings came about from the joint record population (111 pairs as in 2015) and the highest ever productivity (chicks fledged per pair). 

Early-mid summer roseate tern Sterna dougallii, standing on a leafy mossy rock with a blue background.

What more needs to be done?

Adding to the rosy community is important in order to sustain and increase the UK’s population, on Coquet and hopefully further afield. The Roseate Tern LIFE Project has been supporting Coquet since 2015 – as well as bringing past and possible rosy sites back into optimal condition. 

Colonising/recolonising other sites is important, as although we do everything to make Coquet Island a perfect home, as a single site it remains at risk from local catastrophe.

Your generous support is already making a real difference to the birds of Coquet Island. Thank you. Can you go a bit further for nature and help us to achieve even more to help the 40,000+ seabirds, including roseate terns and puffins, in this unique colony to flourish?

No bird is an island

With your support, we can build and maintain a thriving community of birds on Coquet

Your help is making a real difference, not just for the roseate tern but the many birds that live here together.