ONE of the rarest seabirds in the country has made a remarkable comeback.
Seventeen little terns fledged from Chichester Harbour this year – the most successful year since the mid-1970s.
Records show the chattering seabird, which migrates to the south coast from West Africa to breed, has attempted to rear young in Chichester Harbour most summers.
But summer storms and rising sea levels have wiped out nests.
In recent years, the RSPB has been trying to get the birds to nest in Langstone Harbour, with 500 tonnes of aggregate piled on one of the habour’s islands two years ago to help create a good habitat.
This year the terns built their nests in the harbour, only for a summer storm to wash the nests away.
But, in an amazing turnaround, scientists believe the determined creatures flew a few miles away to Chichester Harbour and laid their eggs there.
James Parkin, Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s farming and wildlife officer, said: ‘We are extremely pleased with the breeding success of little terns this year, but luck has been on their side with a period of calm weather immediately after they decided to nest.’
Wez Smith, RSPB site manager for Langstone, said: ‘The number of breeding little terns has declined by 86 per cent in southeast England over the past 30 years and so it’s a great relief to see them make a return in force.
‘With their best breeding figures for decades, the hope is that breeding terns can once again become a common summer sight for people enjoying the coastline.’
Louise MacCallum, environment officer for Langstone Harbour, said scientists had learnt a lot this year about the bird’s breeding behaviour.
She added: ‘The dream is next year we will have loads fledging in both harbours.’