New strategy to protect fairy terns between Fremantle and Bunbury launches on January 17

Protection needed: The shallow nests of fairy terns are particularly vulnerable to disturbance or predators. Picture: supplied
Protection needed: The shallow nests of fairy terns are particularly vulnerable to disturbance or predators. Picture: supplied

A NEW community-led strategy has been launched to help protect the threatened Australian fairy tern on the coastline from Fremantle to Bunbury.

The strategy announced on Monday will provide a framework for organisations and community groups to help protect fairy tern colonies during their crucial breeding period.

One of Australia's smallest and rarest seabirds, the fairy tern measures less than 25cm from bill to tail and is distinguished by a distinctive black 'head cap' and bright orange bill.

As the birds build their shallow nests on sandy beaches and near estuary mouths during the summer months, they are open to disturbance by vehicles, pets and feral animals.

Supporting groups include the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Fremantle Ports, Bunbury Ports, the Ministry of Defence, the cities of Melville, Cockburn and Mandurah, Birdlife Western Australia and coast care groups.

The Western Australian Fairy Tern Network was formed by the Conservation Council of WA in 2015 to coordinate a collaborative approach to protecting the terns.

A rare seabird: Fairy terns build their shallow nests on sandy beaches and near estuary mouths during the summer months. Picture: supplied

A rare seabird: Fairy terns build their shallow nests on sandy beaches and near estuary mouths during the summer months. Picture: supplied

Council member Dr Nic Dunlop said fairy terns were unpredictable in that they tended to move between multiple sites along the WA coast.

"This means that they may be commonly found on either government, public or private land and it can therefore be difficult for one group or organisation to monitor them effectively," Dr Dunlop said.

"By strengthening the ties between each of the network members - as this strategy sets out to do - we hope it will become much easier to protect this species across its many breeding sites in the region."

It is currently estimated that there are fewer than 3,000 breeding pairs of fairy terns in WA.

For more information about the WA Fairy Tern Network, visit ccwa.org.au/fairyterns.