Roseate terns have incredibly pale grey plumage, strikingly long tail streamers and a slight rosy flush to their breast. Their arrival on our coast marks the beginning of summer.
Once widespread and found nesting in every country of the UK, roseate terns nearly became extinct in the 19th century because their plumage was prized for fashionable hats for ladies. Legal protection saved them from extinction, but in the 1960s they experienced one of the most dramatic population crashes of any of our nesting seabirds.
Thanks to the long-term efforts of conservationists, the Western European population is now recovering, supporting just over 1,900 pairs in four core colonies in Ireland, France and the UK.
Sadly, roseate terns continue to face many challenges. These are:
- eroding nesting habitat due to sea level increase and extreme weather events.
- food shortages due to climate-induced changes in the marine environment.
- human disturbance at nesting colonies, including egg collectors.
- predation from a range of mammals and birds, such as foxes, otters, rats, large gulls, crows and peregrines, and
- multiple threats during migration and on wintering grounds (west Africa), including deterioration of their roosting sites and illegal trapping.
To address this challenge, the RSPB invited BirdWatch Ireland and the North Wales Wildlife Trust to form a partnership in a major conservation initiative. The EU-funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project started in October 2015 and will finish in 2020.