Cornish Biodiversity Network  -  Supporting Wildlife Recording

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Cornish Red Data (2009)

The descriptive text, below the map, is from the Cornish Red Data Book (2009). The map on this web page depicts the organisms distribution and shows the records made pre-2000 and those made since.

Sterna hirundo - Common Tern

Range & Status

Holarctic; in Britain and Ireland 11,800 breeding pairs (chiefly in north and east).

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: fairly common passage migrant along coasts and lower reaches of main

estuaries, long extinct as a breeding species (sporadic until 1864). Isles of Scilly: the most recent survey was 68 pairs at six locations in the islands \endash the only breeding colony west of Chesil Beach (Dorset). There is an on-going programme to establish a secure site for the terns on Samson in tandem with the Roseate Tern recovery programme.

Habitat & Ecology

Breeds on shingle beaches and rocky islets.


Rat, gull and cat predation, and human disturbance.


Control of predators (as with other terns). Siting of nesting rafts on inland reservoirs on the Cornish mainland might attract breeding pairs as this has proved very successful in other parts of Britain. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).


I.J. Bennallick, S. Board, C.N. French, P.A. Gainey, C. Neil, R. Parslow, A. Spalding and P.E. Tompsett. eds. 2009. Red Data Book for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 2nd Edition.Croceago Press.

The Cornish Red Data Book Project was led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Federation for Biological Recorders (CISFBR). The full text and species accounts (minus the maps) are available on the CISFBR website.