Nature Champions: Common Tern

(c) Pixabay

This summer migrant visits the UK from April to September and can be found both at the coast and inland. Common terns nest mainly in colonies on islands and, occasionally, at safe sites onshore. The Firth of Forth is an important area for these birds, with the Outer Firth of Forth and St Andrews Bay Complex Special Protection Area (SPA) supporting the largest aggregation of common terns in Scotland. An SPA site for common terns in Edinburgh’s Leith Docks also forms the smallest site of it’s kind in the EU. Although numbers are thought to be increasing from historical declines in Scotland, common terns are ‘amber listed’ as a species of conservation concern in the UK. They often breed on low-lying ground, making their nests vulnerable to predation and extreme weather, which is expected to worsen with climate change.

Action Needed

  • Improve and maintain management (e.g. predation, biosecurity, nesting conditions and disturbance) at existing colonies.
  • Create new breeding sites. 
  • End sandeel fishing in Scottish waters and promote transparent, accountable and ecosystem-based fisheries management.
  • Invest in research to minimise the impacts of offshore renewable energy developments. 


  • Predation at breeding sites
  • Climate change 
  • Habitat loss and disturbance
  • Prey availability
  • Unsustainable development at sea

MSP Nature Champion

Ben Macpherson

Member for: Edinburgh Northern and Leith

Region: Lothian

Party: Scottish National Party

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