The Little Tern (Sterna albifrons subsp sinensis) is the smallest of Australia's terns with a wingspan of only 45-55 centimetres and a total weight of 50 grammes.
It is listed as an Endangered Species under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Breeding colonies are located on beaches, sand spits and sand islands near rivers, creeks and coastal lakes. Many of them located near the mouths of estuaries. Historically, Little Terns were recorded at 70 separate breeding colonies in NSW, but today only 15 identified sites exist in NSW, including Sawtell (Bongil Bongil National Park), Hearnes Lake and Red Rock.
Little Tern nests are a simple scrape in the ground, sometimes lined with feathers and eggshells. The highly exposed hatchlings are very susceptible to predators from both introduced and native species, as well as disturbance from human activities.
Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) run a Recovery Programme that aims to protect and nurture Little Terns in the local area by protecting breeding areas, including areas at Hearnes Lake Beach and Sawtell.
In Spring, the breeding areas are fenced off and people are discouraged from entering the areas.
How you can help
The Recovery Programme relies on a volunteers for its success. If you would like to be part of this programme contact NPWS on 02 6652 0900.