The Fairy Tern is one of Australia’s smallest and rarest seabirds. These small, coastal seabirds measure less than 250 mm from their bill- to tail-tip, and in peak breeding condition, they feature a dark black head cap, bright orange bill and legs.
Fairy Terns can often be seen nesting and raising fledglings on sandy beaches, shallow continental islands and near estuary mouths during the summer months. Their nest consists of a shallow scrape in the sand, enhanced by small shells and stones, which helps to camouflage eggs and chicks. Their diet consists, almost exclusively, of small bait fishes such as sprat, anchovies, and garfish, which are captured by plunge diving.
The exposed nesting sites preferred by the birds can make them vulnerable to vehicles, foot traffic, pets, and feral animals. In recent times, a loss of breeding habitat combined with intensive human-induced activity has resulted in recurrent breeding failure. It is currently estimated that there are fewer than 3,000 pairs of Fairy Terns in WA.