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Successful breeding season for rare seabird along Norfolk coast

PUBLISHED: 08:26 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:26 10 October 2017

At least a third of the UK�s breeding little tern population chooses to breed in Norfolk each summer. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

At least a third of the UK�s breeding little tern population chooses to breed in Norfolk each summer. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

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New figures have shown that 
one of the UK’s rarest seabirds had a successful breeding season along the East Norfolk coast this year.

RSPB staff and volunteers have been working hard to protect the wellbeing of the region’s little terns. Picture: Kevin Simmonds RSPB staff and volunteers have been working hard to protect the wellbeing of the region’s little terns. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

The number of little terns in the country has chronically declined over the past 25 years, predominantly due to difficulties in finding safe beaches where the birds can feed their young free from predators and human disturbance.

However, the RSPB has revealed there were 260 fledging little tern chicks in East Norfolk this year, the largest number of fledglings of any little tern colony in the UK.

This means that, during the 6000-mile round trip that is made every year, at least a third of the UK’s breeding little tern population chooses to breed in Norfolk each summer.

Little terns, one of the UK’s rarest seabirds, had a successful breeding season along the east Norfolk coast this year. Picture: Kevin Simmonds
Little terns, one of the UK’s rarest seabirds, had a successful breeding season along the east Norfolk coast this year. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

This year, a colony near Sea Palling produced the highest number of fledglings in the county, with 170 chicks leaving for their wintering grounds in West Africa. In addition, 90 chicks have departed from Winterton-on-Sea to make the same journey.

Both RSPB staff and volunteers have been working hard to protect the wellbeing of the region’s little terns, and these latest figures come as welcome reward for 
their efforts.

Phil Pearson, the RSPB’s senior conservation officer in the east, said: “We are delighted that little terns have had another successful breeding season in East Norfolk this year.

There were 260 fledging little tern chicks in east Norfolk this year. Picture: Kevin Simmonds There were 260 fledging little tern chicks in east Norfolk this year. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

“By working together we can have a huge impact on this species. If we can boost the breeding success across all of our UK little tern colonies, the overall population has a real chance of recovery.

“However, the struggles in our Norfolk colonies show that predators, high tides and human disturbance can seriously affect the little tern’s fortunes. It is crucial that we keep working hard to maintain and create more safe breeding sites to allow the population to spread out across our coast.”

Little tern breeding success in Norfolk is also thanks to funding from the EU LIFE+ Nature Programme, which allows the Little Tern Recovery Project to fund staff and equipment.

A little tern with a sand eel. Picture: Kevin Simmonds A little tern with a sand eel. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

To find out more about little terns in Norfolk, and to see how you can make a difference next season, visit littleternproject.org.uk.

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