Little Terns, 2020

Little Terns at Winterton-on-SeaTHE nights are drawing in; sunsets on the beach are now cold and crisp, and the gentle sound of little terns chattering at Winterton are but a faint memory. Every year these tiny birds fly from west Africa to nest on the beaches along the coast of East Anglia. Winterton-on-sea has been one of the most important sites in the area for over 16 years. 

The east Norfolk colonies last year managed to see 300-400 little tern chicks take flight, making up 25% of the total number of little tern chicks in the UK. East Norfolk have been doing their bit to maintain numbers and little terns remain a feature of our coasts, yet the UK little tern population has declined by 23% in the last four years.

For the 2020 breeding season, 55 pairs nested at Winterton yet, unfortunately, no chicks took flight, due to a long-standing difficult relationship between kestrel’s and little terns. Kestrel’s themselves are a species in decline with the UK population having decreased by 65% between 1995-2012. This elegant raptor is in equal need of our support. In future, we will work hard to create alternative food sources for them; the tiny balls off fluff that make up a little tern chick is hardly a nutritionally worthy mouthful!

Since this colony is so important, RSPB staff and volunteers are even more thankful to locals who put their dogs on leads and respect the birds throughout the little tern season, whilst advocating good behaviour to tourists!

It’s been a hard year for coastal villages, but there is a lot to be thankful for, so on behalf of these enchanting birds and all those who appreciate them - thanks so much to you for creating space for nature!

Alice Skehel, Little Tern Project Officer (East Norfolk)