Doing a good turn for the terns

The Little and Fairy Terns are about to start breeding at their regular sites on the Gippsland Lakes, with birds arriving in the region from now onwards and remaining until early next year.

Natural Environment Program Officer with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Jo Andrews said: “The Gippsland Lakes provides the small terns with suitable breeding and nesting areas and there is continual habitat restoration work being done to ensure these birds return to the Lakes each year.”

“The terns prefer flat sandy profiles to nest on, and in recent years revegetation and sand renourishment has been completed to help restore some of their preferred breeding habitat and encourage them back to breed here,” Ms Andrews said.

“Important breeding sites around the Gippsland Lakes for terns include Pelican Island, Crescent Island, Rigby Island and Lakes Tyers Island.

“Some of these locations are easily accessible by the public and we’re asking people to avoid areas where terns are nesting, especially at this time of year so they’re not disturbed during their critical breeding and nesting season.

“On average, only 200 of these endangered birds visit our region each year, so the breeding season is an important time for them.

“Each breeding pair produces only one or two chicks and it’s quite normal for only one to survive. If disrupted when nesting or looking for suitable breeding sites, the small terns may abandon their nests and potentially not breed.

“We’ve erected signs around potential breeding sites, warning people to be aware of the birds and to stay well clear to ensure a successful breeding season.

“Threats that currently exist for the tern population include foxes, domestic dogs, predator birds and some plant species that invade their breeding area.

“As the tern breeding season happens to coincide with the busiest time in and around the Gippsland Lakes, it’s important for the public to remember to avoid the birds at all times, keep their dogs on a lead and spread the message to others.”

The Gippsland Lakes environment provides ideal breeding sites and food source for the terns. The public is encouraged to enjoy spotting the terns and observing them in their natural habitat, but to remember to do this from a distance so the birds continue to visit long into the future. Projects to protect the small terns are funded by the Victorian State Government for the health of the Gippsland Lakes.

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