Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Attempted re-establishment of a sooty tern Onychoprion fuscatus breeding colony on Denis Island, Seychelles

Published source details

Feare C.J., French G.C.A., Nevill J.E.G., Pattison-Willits V.S., Wheeler V., Yates T.L., Hoareau C. & Prescott C.V. (2015) Attempted re-establishment of a sooty tern Onychoprion fuscatus breeding colony on Denis Island, Seychelles. Conservation Evidence, 12, 19-24

Summary

Seychelles supports around three million nesting pairs of sooty terns. However, there have been recent declines and the colonies continue to face ongoing threats from habitat change and excessive commercial harvesting of their eggs, as well as potential threats by commercial fishing and climate change. A possible method to counter these threats is to re-establish breeding colonies on islands from which they have disappeared. An attempt was made to attract birds to a previously occupied island through habitat management, decoy birds and playback of recorded sooty tern calls. Habitat preparation involved predator eradication and tree removal to provide open ground with bare sandy areas and low herb vegetation. Overflying birds were attracted by broadcast calls, with some circling over and landing among the decoys. Large three-dimensional plastic models were superior to other models presented. This study demonstrated that large numbers of birds can be attracted by these means and that the birds then undertook behaviour associated with breeding, including egg laying by a few birds. However, after five seasons a breeding colony has not yet been established; one possible cause is the emergence of unexpected egg predators, common moorhen Gallinula chloropus and common myna Acridotheres tristis.