Fairy Terns return to Fremantle

Fairy terns have returned for the third nesting season to the Rous Head sanctuary created by Fremantle Ports.

Port Environmental Advisor Adam van der Beeke said at last count there were 292 adults and their hatched chicks would soon be fledging.

‘The area obviously suits them and with suitable breeding areas becoming harder to find for this vulnerable migratory species, the sanctuary stands a very good chance of long-term success,’ Adam said.

‘Adult numbers roughly doubled in the second breeding season to 320 adults. In January, 180 young were banded, most of which were “runners” close to fledging age. A survey for chick mortalities by Fremantle Ports in and around the area in late February indicated most, if not all, the banded young survived to fledging. Based on the peak count of nesting adults and the number of young banded, it was estimated that breeding success was somewhere between 0.57 and 0.83 fledglings per pair which is high for small terns. We will again be banding chicks and fledglings at Rous Head as part of an authorised Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) project. Banding the birds by region with different coloured bands is a very effective way to research population size, structure and inter-regional movements.’

The banding will be supervised by Dr Nic Dunlop, a terrestrial and marine ecologist with a special interest in seabird population dynamics and will involve an experienced team of volunteers.

The bird bands are provided by the Australian Government under the auspices of the ABBBS.

The ABBBS manages collection of information on threatened and migratory bird and bat species and has issued authority to Dr Dunlop to supervise the banding at the sanctuary.

Supporting research

Fremantle Ports is working closely with the Conservation Council of WA to monitor the success of the sanctuary.

Monitoring data collected at Rous Head will also contribute to a broader (South West WA) citizen-science project looking at the demographic structure of the migratory population and the conservation significance of local breeding populations.

Fremantle Ports has provided the Conservation Council with a grant to establish a South West fairy tern conservation network to coordinate conservation efforts around the coast.

The network has used the grant to set up a social media platform to engage bird observers in the citizen-science project and coordinate managers with volunteers in taking conservation action.

The network has already been very effective in the early detection of colonies forming at the Abrolhos, Fremantle, Point Walter and Mandurah.

Check out 2015’s post on the Fairy Terns here.

All credit to our good friends at Fremantle Ports.