Bumper fairy tern breeding season at sanctuary
Vulnerable bird numbers are being boosted on reclaimed land at Rous Head.

Published: 15/01/2018

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A fairy tern watches over its egg at the Rous Head sanctuary

Fremantle Ports’ breeding sanctuary for fairy terns is making a strong contribution to the conservation of these vulnerable little birds in Western Australia.

The number of breeding pairs has grown significantly since the sanctuary at Rous Head was established by Fremantle Ports in 2012 (see graph below).

Fairy tern numbers graph.jpg

The protected site is located on port land adjacent to the southern end of Port Beach.

Fremantle Ports Environmental Adviser, Adam van der Beeke said a recent count tallied 162 nests with eggs or nestlings in addition to 70 mobile chicks that were banded.

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Fairy terns and chicks at the sanctuary
 

The number of breeding pairs so far this season is estimated at 250 compared with about 90 pairs in 2013-14.

'This year we have the largest and most successful breeding colony of fairy terns in the Perth metropolitan area,' he said.

'Typically breeding sites have between 50 to 120 pairs of adults, so this is an excellent outcome for their conservation.'

Fremantle Ports used sandy material dredged in the Inner Harbour deepening of 2010 to create the breeding conditions favoured by the fairy terns.

'The birds make their nests in a scrape in shelly sand and lay one to two speckled eggs. 

'With a truckload of shells donated by Cockburn Cement and with the help of Conservation Council of WA volunteers, we replenished the site ahead of the current breeding season in November,' Adam said.

Fremantle Ports is continuing to work closely with the Conservation Council to monitor the success of the sanctuary.

The chicks on site were banded this week as part of CCWA’s Fairy Tern Network Monitoring Program to understand more about fairy tern movements, relationships and population health.

Funding provided by Fremantle Ports has supported the setting up of the Fairy Tern Network, including a social media platform to encourage and coordinate community involvement.

The fairy tern breeding sanctuary at Rous Head is fenced to protect the nesting colony from intrusion and to prevent the chicks from straying onto the adjacent pedestrian and cycle pathway.