National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

Tern it on

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June is the perfect month to look for terns.  These slender seabirds are widespread along our coastline now, patrolling inshore waters in search of food for their chicks.

Look for a flash of white as a tern plunge-dives from around 20 feet to catch a small fish just below the surface.  As it flies off, notice the long wings and deeply forked tail that gives the alternative name of sea swallow.

Many of these terns nest on the Brownsea Island lagoon.  Here, the terns have been encouraged to nest by the construction of small gravel islands surrounded by protective fences that keep out predators such as crows and herons.  Nesting boxes and drain pipes set on the ground provide cover for the chicks in poor weather.  Over the years the number of pairs has varied but on average there are around 200 pairs of Sandwich terns and 100 of common tern.

A group of nesting Sandwich terns with chicks on Brownsea can be viewed by webcam from the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ website.

common tern

common tern

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Author: Kevin Rideout

National Trust Visitor Experience Officer based at Studland

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