Rare roseat tern breeds on island in Firth of Forth

CONSERVATION chiefs are celebrating after a specialist platform designed to entice a rare seabird to raise its chick on an island in the Firth of Forth proved successful.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 10:31 am
SNH staff discovered the chick in August.
SNH staff discovered the chick in August.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) constructed ‘tern terraces’ on the Isle of May over the summer months in a bid to attract roseate terns.

And it has now emerged a single adult joined common, sandwich and Arctic tern colonies on the reserve in early June, breeding with a common tern to produce a single chick which fledged in early August.

The birds are known for their distinctive white plumage, long black-tail streamers and black cap and beak and take their name from the pinkish tinge adults develop on their underside in summer.

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David Steel, SNH Nature Reserve Manager, explained: “We started constructing the first tern terraces on the island to help increase nesting habitat for terns in 2015.

“Over the last three years, we’ve increased both arctic and common tern breeding numbers, while also attracting sandwich terns back to the island. But this year, we have gone one better with this stunning roseate tern. Providing the right habitat and safe nesting sites for roseate terns is a major breakthrough."

“Although this year’s chick is the result of a hybrid pair, we will hopefully attract a pair of roseates in the next few years and bring another species back to Scotland as a regular breeder.”

The large, square platforms are covered in sand and gravel, with custom tern boxes added to help aid nesting.

Roseate terns are on the Red Data list as a species of high conservation concern, with no other breeding pairs in Scotland.

The only known colony in the UK is in Northumberland, with single pairs in North Wales.

Dr Paul Morrison, UK Roseate Tern Ambassador, added, "I am delighted that the Isle of May has attracted a roseate tern this year. I am confident, that with careful management of the habitat, this year marks the start of the return of the roseate terns to this wildlife haven.