Little Terns of Chesil Beach

We are long-term supporters of a partnership that protects a colony of rare little terns at Chesil Beach in Dorset, important for conservation and valued by local people and tourists.

Adult and fledgling little terns on buoys

The little tern is one of the UK’s rarest seabirds. They migrate from the West African coast to breed in Britain during May to August.

The colony at Chesil Beach is now one of the most productive little tern colonies in the UK and the only one in the south west of England. Yet, it was once at risk of being lost, mainly due to predation and disturbance.

330% increase

in breeding pairs since 2008, from 10 to 33

Since the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and partners launched a project to protect the Chesil breeding site in 2009, the colony has gone from strength to strength. In 2015, there were 33 breeding pairs, up from 10 pairs in 2008. An estimated 35 chicks fledged on the beach.

The future of the little tern colony at Chesil Beach is important both for conservation and for the many local people and tourists who visit the Chesil Beach Centre each year, eager to follow the progress of this diminutive seabird.

The little tern project is managed by the RSPB and supported by Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve, The Crown Estate, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Portland Court Leet. It is also made possible by a team of dedicated and tireless local volunteers, offering 1,200 hours of their time in 2015. 

Initiatives include:

  • Erecting electric fencing around the breeding site to deter predation by foxes and other creatures, helping guarantee the security of the Chesil breeding site.
  • Installing anti-perching devices on the fence to help deter predation by crows, gulls and other bird species.
  • Monitoring and site maintenance, with 24-hour wardening by experts and local volunteers during the breeding period, to minimise disturbances from predators and people who might unwittingly stray too close.
  • Introducing sand patches for the birds to nest on, which vastly reduces the amount of eggs that chill in poor weather conditions.

Further Information

Little Terns of Chesil Beach

Good year for Chesil Beach little terns (RSPB)