Norfolk beach provides nesting place for largest little tern colony

A little tern feeding its young at Sea Palling Beach. Picture: Kevin Simmonds

A little tern feeding its young at Sea Palling Beach. Picture: Kevin Simmonds - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk beach has become home to the largest breeding colony of little terns in Britain.

A little tern with its chicks on Sea Palling beach. Picture: KEVIN SIMMONDS

A little tern with its chicks on Sea Palling beach. Picture: KEVIN SIMMONDS - Credit: Archant

Chicks are now hatching at many of the 169 nests on the RSPB reserve near Sea Palling.

Aged between one and 20 days old some are just starting to explore their shingly home with others on the brink of fledging.

The rare sea bird travels thousands of miles to our shores every summer from West Africa.

The site is relatively new to the birds, and this year's colony represents record numbers of little terns at the location.

Little tern eggs on Sea Palling beach. Picture: KEVIN SIMMONDS

Little tern eggs on Sea Palling beach. Picture: KEVIN SIMMONDS - Credit: Archant

Other significant little tern colonies in the county can be found at Scolt Head and Holkham and Blakeney National Nature Reserve.

The little tern is now one of the UK's rarest seabirds, having suffered chronic declines over the past 25 years. Their numbers have been falling as they struggle to find safe beaches to nest and feed their young, free from predators and human disturbance.

Most Read

Winterton has been a popular location with little terns in previous years but after 96 pairs of birds began nesting at the site, in early July the majority abandoned their nests because they were disturbed by the presence of a deer and foxes.

RSPB little tern warden Fabienne Fossez said: 'It made my heart soar to spot our first flocks of little terns settling down to nest on the Norfolk coast after a nervous wait.

'Our little terns arrived many weeks later than we expected them to and, when they finally arrived, they were in much smaller numbers than we had hoped and appeared very unsettled. We think that something has happened in their wintering grounds in West Africa that has affected them badly, perhaps to do with their food source or weather conditions.'

National Trust ranger Ajay Tegala added: 'If you are visiting the Norfolk beaches that are also home to little terns this summer, please be mindful that chicks will just be finding their feet and both parents and youngsters will be easily disturbed by dogs, kites and other human activity close to the colony.'

To keep up to date with the fortunes of little terns in Norfolk, visit www.littleterns.org

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter