More than 25 breeding pairs of endangered little terns lay eggs at Sawtell

A ‘runner’ Photo: Anna Lloyd – NPWS.


MORE than 25 breeding pairs of endangered little terns have laid eggs on the spit within Bongil Bongil National Park, just south of Sawtell Headland.

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Andrew Winter, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Acting Area Manager, said that it was great to see a large number of breeding pairs at the Coffs Coast site, following significant declines in their numbers over the past five years.

“We’ve already spotted some little chicks, known as ‘runners’, scuttling about in the dunes on Bongil Beach,” said Mr Winter.

“Following the recent heavy rain, where the little terns had a really rough few days, it’s even more important we give them peace, space and a chance to resettle and get back to being fully focussed on their eggs and young ones,” he added.

Mr Winter said while the breeding site has been fenced off and signs have been erected, it is essential for all park visitors to give the nesting area a wide berth and keep their dogs out of the national park.

“These rare shorebirds lay their eggs straight on top of the beach sand which makes them very vulnerable,” Mr. Winter said.

Little Terns will abandon their chicks and their incubating eggs if repeatedly disturbed by people, vehicles or predatory animals.

“Just a single domestic dog can wreak havoc with these sensitive birds,” said Mr Winter.

“We have unfortunately had two recent seasons on the Bongil Spit devastated by people who have ignored park rules and have let their pet dogs run amok in the breeding area.”

National Park staff are concerned that the halting of international travel will lead to a large increase in domestic national park visitors on the Coffs Coast over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Mr. Winter said, “Some of our visitors will be first timers who may not be aware of the sensitive and important breeding event occurring on the Bongil Spit.”

“We’re asking all of our local supporters to keep an eye out for our special little tern site, help educate our summer tourists about appropriate behaviour in Bongil Bongil and help to ensure this breeding event is a success,” he continued.

The little tern breeding season is expected to conclude in February, after which the parent birds and their new offspring will begin a journey of over 6,000 kilometres as part of their annual migration to the northern hemisphere.


By Andrew VIVIAN

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