Rare seabird breeds on Scottish island

A rare seabird has raised its chick on a Scottish island nature reserve, with experts welcoming it as a sign conservation efforts are working.

An adult roseate tern paired with a common tern on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth in early June and the couple produced a single chick, which successfully fledged in early August.

Roseate terns are on the Red Data list as a species of high conservation concern and no other roseate terns currently breed in Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said.

Hybrid chick
Dr Chris Redfern and Bex Outram, of the SNH, with the hybrid chick (David Steel/SNH/PA)

SNH built special tern terraces – large, square areas covered in sand and gravel featuring boxes to aid nesting on the island – and said these attracted the bird to the SNH reserve, which is on the edge of the Firth of Forth.

David Steel, SNH nature reserve manager, said: “We started constructing the first tern terraces on the island to help increase nesting habitat for terns in 2015.

“Over the last three years, we’ve increased both arctic and common tern breeding numbers, while also attracting sandwich terns back to the island.

“But this year, we have gone one better with this stunning roseate tern. Providing the right habitat and safe nesting sites for roseate terns is a major breakthrough.

“Although this year’s chick is the result of a hybrid pair, we will hopefully attract a pair of roseates in the next few years and bring another species back to Scotland as a regular breeder.”

The roseate tern has white plumage, long black-tail streamers and black cap and beak, while its name comes from the pinkish tinge adults develop on their underside in summer.

Dr Paul Morrison, UK roseate tern ambassador, said: “I am delighted that the Isle of May has attracted a roseate tern this year.

“I am confident that with careful management of the habitat, this year marks the start of the return of the roseate terns to this wildlife haven.”

SNH said roseate terns are extremely rare breeding birds in the UK with only two confirmed nesting locations, with 122 pairs on Coquet Island off Northumberland and four pairs in North Wales.

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