Chinese Crested Tern success

Chinese Crested Tern appears to be responding well to conservation measures. Photo: Chen Li (BirdLife International).
Chinese Crested Tern appears to be responding well to conservation measures. Photo: Chen Li (BirdLife International).
The Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern has had a second and even more successful year on the Jiushan Islands in China: at least 43 of the birds arrived and stayed on the island of Tiedun Dao this breeding season (which lasts from mid-May to early August), and at least 20 breeding pairs were formed. In early August, no less than 13 young fledged –  for a species with a previously known global population of no more than 30 birds, this is a remarkable success.

Chinese Crested Tern was presumed extinct in the late 20th century, but the species was rediscovered on the Mazu Islands along the coast of Fujian Province in 2000; one additional colony was discovered at the Jiushan Islands, Zhejiang Province, in 2004. However, because of illegal egg collection the terns ceased to breed on the Jiushans after 2007 and the colony apparently moved to the Wuzhishan Islands in the same province.

Since 2011, BirdLife International and partner the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife in Hong Kong) have been working (along with Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, the Zhejiang Wild Bird Society, the Ocean and Fishery Bureau of Xiangshan County and a team of tern experts from Oregon State University, USA) on a restoration project for the species in the Jiushan Islands, using decoys and playback of tern calls.

The restoration work started during the breeding season in 2013. Though successful, the new colony got a late start compared to the normal tern breeding season. This year, a simple monitoring station was built on Tiedun Dao, the two-ha island chosen for breeding colony restoration.

Simba Chan, BirdLife’s Senior Conservation Officer for Asia stayed on the island from May until early August to monitor the breeding colony. An attempt to poach eggs from the colony was prevented and a poacher was arrested. Three typhoons passed through or near the Jiushan Islands during the season, but did not cause any damage to the birds and their young. By the end of the breeding season, a large quantity of useful data regarding the breeding biology of Chinese Crested Terns had been collected, which will be useful for future projects.
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