Breeding season is well and truly underway for the Gippsland Lakes Little Tern population.
Although the Gippsland Lakes provides the terns with suitable breeding and nesting areas, there is continual habitat restoration work being done to ensure these birds return to the Lakes each year.
Natural Environment Program Officer with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Jo Andrews said: “The Gippsland Lakes provides the small terns with suitable breeding
and nesting areas and there is continual habitat restoration work being done to ensure these birds return to the Lakes each year.”
“The terns prefer flat sandy profiles to nest on, and in recent years revegetation and sand renourishment has been completed to help restore some of their preferred breeding habitat and encourage them back to breed here,” Ms Andrews said.
“Important breeding sites around the Gippsland Lakes for terns include Pelican Island, Crescent Island, Rigby Island and Lakes Tyers Island.
“Some of these locations are easily accessible by the public and we’re asking people to avoid areas where terns are nesting, especially at this time of year so they’re not disturbed during their
critical breeding and nesting season.
“On average, only 200 of these endangered birds visit our region each year, so the breeding season is an important time for them.
“Each breeding pair produces only one or two chicks and it’s quite normal for only one to survive. If disrupted when nesting or looking for suitable breeding sites, the small terns may abandon their nests and potentially not breed.
“We’ve erected signs around potential breeding sites, warning people to be aware of the birds and to stay well clear to ensure a successful breeding season.
“Threats that currently exist for the tern population include foxes, domestic dogs, predator birds and some plant species that invade their breeding area.
“As the tern breeding season happens to coincide with the busiest time in and around the Gippsland Lakes, it’s important for the public to remember to avoid the birds at all times, keep their
dogs on a lead and spread the message to others.”
The public will notice signs have been erected around potential breeding sites, warning people to be aware of the birds and to stay well clear to ensure a successful breeding season.
The Managing Threatened Terns in the Gippsland Lakes project has recently commenced and will conclude in June 2020. The aim of this project is to maintain and improve the Little and Fairy Tern breeding sites, conduct aerial mapping of the islands and to assess the habitat and create a broader understanding of what is important to the terns during their breeding season.
Another project that is about to start is the construction of nesting boxes for the chicks to provide shelter and safety from predators.
“There has already been an increase in the amount of natural, woody debri placed in nesting areas and to compliment this project Birdlife Australia will take on the task of constructing the chick nesting boxes,” continued Ms Andrews.
As the tern breeding season happens to coincide with the busiest time in and around the Gippsland Lakes, it’s important for the public to remember to stay well clear the birds at all times and spread the message to others.
From January onwards the fledglings, non-breeding adults and post breeders will be feeding in readiness for their migratory journeys, so it is still an important time for the birds and their safety.
The Gippsland Lakes environment provides ideal breeding sites and food source for the terns. The public is encouraged to enjoy spotting the terns and observing them in their natural habitat, but to remember to do this from a distance so they continue to visit long into the future.