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Little terns, Sternula albifrons are one of the UK's rarest breeding birds and their numbers across Europe are still declining. Measuring only 21-25cm in length, they arrive on the UK’s coastline to breed in the sandy/shingle beaches during April having flown approximately 4,500 miles from the west coast of Africa. In the UK 2,500 breeding pairs in the 1980s, reduced to less than 2,000 pairs in 2000 and now current estimates are at about 1,500 pairs, which occur in about 70 breeding colonies.
The colony at Crimdon is a protected area forming part of the Teesmouth and Cleveland European Marine Site. This colony represents about 1.2% of the UK's breeding populations and an area of beach is fenced to protect the nests which is guarded by a dedicated team of volunteers and a warden. This colony forms part of a 5 year (Sept 2013- Aug 2018) nationwide conservation project the 'EU Life+ little tern recovery project', which key aim is to 'To lay the foundations for long- term recovery of the little tern Sternula albifrons by securing robust breeding populations at key sites throughout the UK'.
A low breeding success rate has lead to the little tern’s decline, through human disturbance, predation, insufficient food and tidal undulation. When visiting this environmentally sensitive area during April till the end of August please follow the voluntary code of conduct issued through the European Marine Site; in particular keeping all dogs on leads when passing near the fence area. This is particularly important in the months July and August as young chicks start to venture outside the fenced area to the shore line to feed.
A copy of the Voluntary Code of Conduct can be found here