South West Fairy Tern Project


The Conservation Council (WA) Citizen Science Program has been developing the South West Fairy Tern Project (the project) since 2013. The project is focussed on recovery actions for the migratory western sub-population of the threatened Australian Fairy Tern Sternula nereis nereis.

The project has been successfully operating a banding based citizen-science research project in south-western WA to determine the demographic structure of the migratory population, in particular to elucidate the conservation significance of local breeding populations.

In 2015 with funding assistance from State NRM the project developed a WA 'Fairy Tern Conservation Guide' and delivered management workshops in four SW subregions leading to the production of four coastal strategies. We now have a base network (the network) of about 50 observers and area managers that have been actively assisting with the research program, conducting surveillance or monitoring and implementing conservation measures.

In 2016 the project has been assisted with funding from Fremantle Ports to improve network communication and the coordination of research and conservation activities by developing a social media platform and to establish a data base for the citizen-science project.

The Commonwealth Government will be commencing a national recovery plan for the threatened 'small terns' Sternula spp in late 2016.

Fairy Tern Conservation in South Western Australia, a guide prepared by J.N. Dunlop for the Conservation Council of Western Australia was a project supported by funding from the Western Australian Government’s State Natural Resource Management Program.  

The field research underpinning this guide was supported by the grant of various authorities and in-kind contributions from the Department of Parks & Wildlife (WA) and the Department of Fisheries (WA).

The Northern Agricultural Catchment Council (NACC) supported some of the work in the Houtman Abrolhos. Many citizen-scientists have assisted along the way but particular thanks are due to the long-term contribution of Sandy McNeil.

Peter Mortimer, Unique Earth and Tegan Douglas kindly granted permission for the use of their photographs.


Documents to download as pdfs:


Fairy Tern Conservation guide (2.4 Mb)

Fairy Tern Conservation Strategy Mid West Coast (3 Mb) 

Fairy Tern Conservation Strategy Abrolhos (400 Kb)

Fairy Tern Conservation Strategy South West Coast (500 Kb)  


As part of the project, workshops were held. Here is an account of the workshop held in Jurien Bay.

Fairy Tern workshop learnings:

• Two sub-populations in WA
• WA population of Fairy Tern, have the highest genetic diversity of all Australian populations
• 20% of breeding pairs produce 100% of offspring
• Courtship feeding displays of terns are important for successive breeding and management planning
• Information we collect is important to assist in management decisions in a changing climate
• Citizen science is a very important aspect of the project involving local communities

• Monitoring Fairy Terns in the region will assist to create a comprehensive regional snapshot of population dynamics and site management

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