Dummy birds deployed to tempt rare terns back to the Solent

DECOY bird models are being used in a bid to tempt a rare species back to the Solent.

A decoy tern model, compared to a little tern in flight. Credit: The Wildlife Trust
A decoy tern model, compared to a little tern in flight. Credit: The Wildlife Trust

Dummy birds are among the new techniques being used by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to boost local tern populations.

Common, sandwich, little, and roseate terns used to nest widely in the region, but their numbers have declined in recent years.

Experts suggest the birds lack suitable safe space to nest – because of human disturbances, rising sea levels and shrinking beaches, overfishing, pollution and stormy weather.

As a result, parent birds have not been able to raise enough chicks to keep population numbers stable.

But in an attempt to encourage their return, volunteers for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have been preparing spaces for terns to nest ahead of breeding season, which begins in a few weeks.

Efforts include deploying dummy birds donated by the Countryside Education Trust and Natural England, to encourage terns to investigate potential nesting sites.

Volunteers have also cleared vegetation and spread gravel at the trust’s Pewit Island, which is in Portsmouth Harbour off Portchester, and put up protective fencing and built and placed new raised platforms on which terns can roost in Farlington Marshes.

Chris Lycett, reserves officer at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: ‘Thanks to the amazing hard work of our team of volunteers, we’re creating lots of new space for terns in the Solent area.

‘Our thanks go to the local community for their help in keeping these wildlife havens peaceful and free from disturbance, so that we can see these amazing birds return to the Solent and thrive.’

To help make a success of volunteers’ work to bring more terns to the Solent, the wildlife trust is asking people to keep the sanctuaries peaceful and safe in the summer.

A particular target is Pewit Island, which was previously disturbed by local boat users landing on the stretch.

It is hoped nesting seabirds will soon be able to use the island in large numbers – something the trust said has not been possible since the late 1800s.