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Little Tern at Portrane Beach

Little Tern have attempted to nest at Portrane on and off for about 30 years but never succeeded in raising more than 2 or 3 chicks. With the help of Fingal Co council, NPWS, Birdwatch Ireland and many volunteers in 2018 they succeeded in raising 14 chicks, a great success. The chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching and have many things going against them, from human disturbance, predation, high tides and the weather but with daily 12 hour warnening we managed to keep most of the treats at bay.

Download an account of the 2018 season here.

2018 14 chicks fledged. Ringed 13: IZ0 to IZ9, IX0 to IX2.

2019 3 chicks fledged, after 17 nests were lost to predation. Ringed 2: IX4 & IX5.

2020 9 chicks fledged. 100% of the eggs hatched, but 3 chicks died prior to fledgling. Ringed 9: IV0 to IV5, IV7 to IV9. (one chick unringed, IV9 died).

Please report any ring sightings to bwifingal@gmail

The Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) is Irelands rarest breeding Tern, with c.200 breeding pairs visiting the Island annually from the beginning of the breeding season in late April to its end in August. It is also the smallest of the five tern species that breed in Ireland. Having spent the winter off the west coast of Africa, the Little Terns take to shingle beaches on the east and west coast of Ireland, creating shallow scrapes in the pebble and sand for their nests (Doyle et al., 2015). Little Terns are easily distinguished from other by their black caps, yellow feet and yellow, black-tipped beak (Marples and Marples, 1934). Parent Little Terns rely on small fish and crustaceans to feed their young until they are a few days old, as such, proximity to brackish water is of significant importance for breeding Little Terns (Doyle et al., 2015). 

(Mary Caffrey, 2016)

Little Tern eggs and chicks are excellently adapted to remain hidden in the open on shingle beaches. While this offers protection, the exposed nature of their nest coupled with this camouflage leaves them vulnerable to predation, trampling and, not least, human disturbance (ibid). The use of wardening schemes, fencing and signage has proved successful in a number of Little Tern conservation projects to address his major and long-standing cause of low breeding success among Little terns (Keogh et al, 2013).  

(Mary Caffrey, 2016)

13 of the fledged chicks were ringed by the NPWS. IZ5 is shown below.

All images were taken under licence. 

Please contact us at bwifingal@gmail if you would like to get involved.