Foxes and rats making meal of terns

The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

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AN ENDANGERED bird species is tottering on the brink of extinction locally because foxes and rats have developed a taste for them.

Foxes have been seen walking miles out to sea at low tide to feed on the little terns.

And rats, which usually feed on human food remains, can't get enough of the birds' eggs.

It means that the little tern is in danger of being totally wiped out in Langstone Harbour.

RSPB wardens have had to launch emergency measures this year – including installing an electric fence around the nests, to give the foxes a low-voltage shock.

Chris Cockburn, RSPB species protection warden for Langstone, said: 'The foxes have learned how to get to the nests and have found that they are easy prey.'

Statistics show that last year only one little tern fledgling was born in Langstone Harbour.

The harbour is one of the last bastions in the country for the bird.

No fledgings were born on the Hayling oysterbeds – despite 17 being born the year before.

Numbers of the birds have dwindled to about 90 – there used to be several hundred in previous decades.

The birds are located on various islands in the harbour, as well as the oysterbeds on the Hayling shoreline.

Mr Cockburn said: 'There is a car park next to the oysterbeds and wherever there are car parks, there are rats.'