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NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service 2 mins read

After more than 20 years in decline, endangered Little Terns appear to be experiencing a resurgence in numbers in NSW, with an almost 15 percent increase in breeding pairs from last season.   

The beach-nesting bird breeding season commences at the beginning of spring and breeding activity was documented at 16 sites along the NSW coastline in 2023-24, stretching from Wilsons Head in the north to Wallagoot Lake in the south.   

During the 2023-24 breeding season there were around 430 breeding pairs of Little Tern in the state, which is an increase from almost 380 the previous season.   

This impressive number of breeding pairs resulted in over 370 fledglings, almost 100 fledglings more than the previous season.   

These figures were led by standout colonies in Karagi Point on the Central Coast and Shoalhaven Heads on the South Coast, where collectively almost 70 percent of the state’s fledglings were recorded.   

Beach-nesting birds like the Little Tern lay eggs directly on the sand, and eggs and chicks are so well camouflaged they are almost invisible.   

Despite the good results this year, Little Terns are still vulnerable to a wide range of threats, including native and introduced predators, crushing and disturbance from vehicles, humans and domestic dogs, flooding of nesting sites and adverse weather conditions.  

It is imperative that beach goers understand the impact they can have on the breeding season of these endangered creatures over spring and summer every year.   

When attending beaches during breeding season, beach users should:   

  • Make sure dogs are only walked on an approved dog-beach and always kept on a leash.  

  • Reduce your chances of stepping on an egg or chick by walking to the water line.  

  • Keep an eye out for bird nesting signs and fenced-off nesting areas on the beach.  

  • Only drive on designated 4WD beaches, with the relevant permit, and obey all beach-driving rules including staying out of nesting areas.  

For more information on beach-nesting birds in NSW, visit Share the Shore 

Quotes attributable to Executive Director Park Operations Coastal, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Naomi Stephens:  

“Given the endangered nature of most species of beach-nesting birds, we are always hoping for a prosperous season for these animals, and we could not be happier with the results we have seen over this season.   

“For over 20 years Little Terns have experienced decline in NSW, so it is incredibly uplifting to see their numbers beginning to recover.   

“Those committed to these precious feathered residents conducted around 5,000 observations across 417 survey days to closely monitor the progress of these Little Terns.  

“Despite these great results, ongoing management needs to occur to ensure these birds do not go extinct, and every person can make a difference.  

“These numbers are not possible without the unwavering dedication of countless volunteers, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff, local councils, land managers and stakeholders.”  



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