Often called "sea swallows" due to their long tails, Common terns visit Scilly in Summer and can infrequently be seen at other times of the year, passing to and from breeding grounds elsewhere. 

They have a sliver-grey-white colouration with a black head and red bill. Their flight is graceful and they are mainly seen hovering over water before diving, arrow-like into the sea for fish.  They are generally seen in Scilly in small numbers where their distinctive high-pitched chattering call can be heard. 

Sadly, numbers of Common terns in Scilly have dropped by 85% in the last 9 years and are now at risk from being lost as a breeding species here.  Their decline is marked by an Amber Conservation Status and is due to climate change and overfishing globally.

In 2018 very few Common terns returned to Scilly at all; 10 birds showed an interest in nesting on the south end of Annet in late May but no eggs were found.


With thanks for the use of Common Tern Image © Joe Pender