New strategy to protect rare terns

• Fairy tern nests don’t offer much protection from danger.

A NEW community-led strategy to help protect the threatened Australian Fairy Tern was launched this week.

The initiative brings together a network of conservation organisations, government agencies, councils and community groups to help protect fairy terns along the west coast between Fremantle and Bunbury.

The Australian fairy tern is one of Australia’s smallest and rarest seabirds, measuring less than 25 centimetres from bill to tail and featuring a distinctive black ‘head cap’ and bright orange bill.

The terns build their shallow nests on sandy beaches and near estuary mouths during the summer months, but that’s not much protection for the eggs, making them vulnerable to vehicles, pets and feral animals.

It’s estimated there are fewer than 3,000 breeding pairs in WA with 700 of those in the metro area, adding the threats of coastal development and recreation to the mix.

The WA Fairy Tern Network was formed by the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) in 2015 to coordinate a collaborative approach to protecting the terns, and its new strategy has the backing of Melville and Cockburn councils, and Fremantle Ports which has been nurturing a tern colony on its patch for several years.

Nic Dunlop from CCWA, said: “Fairy Terns are unpredictable and have a tendency to move between multiple sites along the WA coast. This means that they may be commonly found on either government, public or private land and it can therefore be difficult for one group or organisation to monitor them effectively.

“By strengthening the ties between each of the network members – as this strategy sets out to do – we hope it will become much easier to protect this species across its many breeding sites in the region,” Dr Dunlop said. 

CCWA citizen science manager Claire Greenwell, said with careful and coordinated management, urban environments can continue to be prized habitats for terns.

Fremantle Ports recently contributed $5,000 towards monitoring predator interactions with the fairy terns and a further $5,000 towards a Fairy Tern Conservation Management Plan.

For more information about the WA Fairy Tern Network, visit ccwa.org.au/fairyterns.

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