Newspaper article on Little Terns

To: "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: Newspaper article on Little Terns
From: "Roger Giller" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2007 16:48:05 +1100
The following article appeared in the St. George and Sutherland Shire Leader 
yesterday, 16/1.

Terns choose Botany Bay for nesting sites.

By Amanda Carlin

"ENDANGERED birds which fly from eastern Asia to lay their eggs on Aussie 
shores have shunned one of their usual nesting sites near Towra Point Nature 

Instead, the tiny little terns have chosen a precarious site in Botany Bay that 
is frequented by people and their four-legged friends.

The birds also abandoned Towra Point Island in December 2005, with no pairs 
nesting in the region following storms, high tides and evidence of human and 
animal disturbance.

But they had a bumper season in December 2004, following a $1.5 million beach 
re-nourishment project, which separated the island and removed direct access 
for predators.

Little terns are listed as threatened in NSW and nest along the east coast from 
October to March.

Adult terns measure 25 to 30 centimetres, or about two-thirds the size of a 
seagull, while their chicks are a little bigger than a golf ball, at two to 
three centimetres.

Towra Point Nature Reserve ran­ger Susanne Callaghan said one colony always 
visited Botany Bay area early in the season, but whether or not they nested 
depended on a number of factors.

"They like very scratchy, sandy, spoiled areas and often those sites are the 
highly disturbed sites," Ms Callaghan said, adding that the sites therefore 
often had many predators, such as domestic pets and feral animals.

"They're not very smart but I guess, on the converse, that they can withstand a 
high level of dis­turbance.

"We'd been doing fox baiting [at Towra] in preparation for about three months, 
hoping that's where they were going to nest."

She said the birds also nested close to the high-tide mark and were often 

There are 10 nesting pairs at the Botany Bay site (which rangers asked not be 
named to avoid unnecessary disturbance), with eight chicks and two eggs.

Ms Callaghan said the birds laid clutches of up to three eggs and may lay again 
if none of their chicks survived.

The nesting site has been tem­porarily fenced off and people should keep their 
distance to give the birds their best chance of sur­vival, she said."

Also on Little Terns:-

I was fishing on Botany Bay last week (10th), about 9 am, in the area between 
Molyneux Point and Kurnell when we noted activity due to fish feeding on the 
surface. Within about 30 seconds the first Little Tern arrived, soon followed 
by others, to feed on the small fish driven to the surface by the "chopper" 
Tailor. We ended up with around 10 Little Terns, feeding intermittently for 
about 10-15 minutes. We cast lures into the Tailor school and hooked one to 
confirm their identity (they are not great eating, so we did not persist with 
this). When landed it regurgitated several small, slender, silvery fish about 
50 mm long. Little fish for Little Terns. I have spent many years fishing and 
it never ceases to amaze me how birds of many sorts, not just Little Terns, 
seem to appear from nowhere as soon as feeding fish start to break the surface 
of the water.

Roger Giller

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