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Tarkine Drive visitor facility upgrades


A tender has been advertised for upgrades to visitor sites on the Tarkine Drive.More

New improved Fortescue Bay boat ramp


Work has been completed on a major upgrade of the Fortescue Bay boat ramp on the Tasman Peninsula.More

Next steps on the new Cradle Mountain visitor experience


A key milestone has been reached in the project to transform Cradle Mountain into a new world-class experience with the release of the Dove Lake Viewing Shelter Development Proposal and Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS) for public comment.More

Little tern

Current status

[Photo of little tern on beach by D. Watts.]

This tiny bird is listed as endangered under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Act 1995.

Why is the little tern endangered?

There are two main reasons why the Little tern (Sterna albifrons sinensis) is endangered in Tasmania. Firstly, there are very few which actually breed here (less than ten pairs). Those that do, breed on our beaches and coastal sandspits. They lay their eggs directly onto the sand. The eggs and chicks are sand coloured with darker specks.

Unfortunately, this no longer protects the terns' eggs. Nowadays, our beaches are used for a variety of recreational pursuits. One of the big threats to the nesting birds is people four wheel driving on beaches. Another major threat comes from our domestic and feral animals. Cats and dogs kill the chicks, and nests may be trampled by stock. Other coastal nesting birds like the hooded plover suffer from the same problems.

What do we know about the little tern?

There are two different populations of little terns. One population comes from Asia. They migrate to Australia every year for summer but would rarely reach as far south as Tasmania. The second population spend all their time in eastern Australia along our coastlines and include the group that breed here in Tasmania. The Tasmanian group are mainly along our northeast coast, from Bridport to Little Musselroe Bay and the Funeaux Group of islands. They are limited to certain breeding areas - those with coastal lagoons nearby for fishing in when seas are too rough. Each pair generally has 2 nest sites to choose from in case of disturbance.

What is being done?

In 1989/90 a national survey of little terns was conducted and a conservation statement was prepared by the Royal Australasian Ornithological Union. There is a national management plan being prepared for the little tern at present (which includes Tasmania).

It is important that we identify all the nesting sites of the little tern and then try to protect them from such activities as 4 wheel driving. Most nest sites are on unprotected land. Areas where terns nest that are also used by the public have had signs posted. There is currently an awareness campaign which includes temporary enclosures to exclude stock and to keep cats and dogs away and raise public awareness of the bird's plight.

Recommended further reading

Slater P., P. and R. 1992. The Slater Field Guide To Australian Birds. Weldon Publishing.