Island restoration work should ensure rosy future for terns

A roseate tern chick.
A roseate tern chick.
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Roseate terns – the rarest breeding seabirds in Europe – could be brought back from the brink in Northern Ireland thanks to a major island restoration project.

The critically endangered species has been in near-terminal decline since the late 1980s.

Blue Circle Island – part of the RSPB’s Larne Lough reserve – is one of the most important sites anywhere in Ireland for breeding terns. But much of the island was flooded and eroded.

It has now been restored in a £391,000 project, with costs partially covered by the EU-funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project and additional match funding from Tarmac and the RSPB.

Ahead of the 2019 breeding season, RSPB-led works have shored up the island and extended the nesting area, making it a prime potential site for a roseate tern colony. The work should help ensure a ‘rosy’ future for the rare seabirds.

While there were between 20 and 35 breeding pairs in Larne Lough between 1985 and 1989, just one pair has been recorded in recent years.

The good news is that two roseate tern chicks have hatched, according to a survey last week by RSPB NI Tern Conservation Officer Monika Wojcieszek.

“This is fantastic news that we have two roseate chicks on Blue Circle and we’re hopeful that we can see their numbers increase year on year,” Monika said.

Blue Circle Island is home to approximately 7,000 birds including common terns, Sandwich terns, common gulls, black-headed gulls and oystercatchers.