South coast RSPB reserve attracts rare American Royal tern

Pagham Harbour. By Diana Challen
Pagham Harbour. By Diana Challen
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A RARE American Royal tern has appeared at RSPB Pagham Harbour this week, which is believed to be a first for the UK mainland.

RSPB Pagham Harbour, West Sussex, has gained a reputation for being one of the best locations to spot rare tern species, with threatened roseate and black terns briefly visiting last year.

Thousands of visitors flocked to the site last June, when a rare elegant tern arrived with a breeding colony of sandwich terns.

‘Our staff and volunteers have undertaken huge improvement works to tern habitats at the reserve in the last few years. As a result, we have increased our colonies of common and little terns, making this one of the best breeding grounds for the species in the South East,’ warden Ivan Lang said.

‘We are delighted that the works are attracting new species to the area. It will be interesting to see if the American Royal sticks around.’

Currently home to over 55 breeding pairs of terns, the reserve hopes to continue its success in restoring population numbers of rare little terns. At last count, there were 19 little tern, 12 common tern and 24 Sandwich tern nests - making it a great place to watch fluffy chicks grow and fledge.

The habitat restoration works undertaken at the RSPB reserve have been part of a wider UK effort to save threatened little and roseate tern populations from becoming extinct. They are funded by the EU LIFE+ Nature Little Tern Recovery Project.