Big little tern season at Sawtell

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

Little tern (Sternula albifrons) chicks

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Acting Area Manager Andrew Winter said 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.

“These rare shorebirds lay their eggs straight on top of the beach sand and are very vulnerable.

“Following the recent heavy rain, where the Little Terms 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.”

Mr Winter said that while we have fenced off the breeding site and erected signs, we’re asking all park visitors to give the nesting area a wide berth and to please not bring their dogs into the national park.

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

“Just a single domestic dog can wreak havoc with these sensitive Little Terns,” 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.

“With international travel off we’re expecting a large increase in domestic national park visitation on the Coffs Coast over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

“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,” said Mr Winter.

The Little Tern breeding season is expected to conclude in February, at which point, 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.

Images: Dropbox: Little Terns - Sawtell