Decoy birds deployed to boost Solent tern populations

Dummy bird models are among the new techniques being used by the Wildlife Trust to boost local tern populations in the Solent

Common, sandwich, little, and roseate terns are among the species that used to nest widely in the Solent area – however in recent years their numbers have struggled.

Experts suggest that the birds lack suitable safe space to nest – a particular problem as our shingle beaches are squeezed by rising sea levels on one side and growing coastal development on the other. Often terns are also forced off beaches by human disturbance.

This is made worse by other factors like overfishing, pollution, and stormier weather washing away nests. As a result parent birds have struggled to raise enough chicks to keep population numbers stable.

Little tern in flight

© Trevor Codlin

Volunteers for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have been working hard to prepare spaces for terns to nest safely ahead of their breeding season, which begins in the next few weeks. This includes:

  • Using decoy tern models donated by the Countryside Education Trust and Natural England, to encourage real birds to investigate potential nesting sites
  • Clearing vegetation and spreading some 40 bags of gravel by hand on the Wildlife Trust’s Pewit Island nature reserve in the middle of Portsmouth Harbour
  • Putting fencing up around two small islands at the Wildlife Trust’s Farlington Marshes nature reserve, to prevent predators reaching nests
  • Building and placing new raised platforms on which the terns can roost on at Farlington Marshes


The Wildlife Trust is asking local people to help with the project by keeping these wildlife sanctuaries peaceful and safe for the birds especially over the summer months. This is especially the case for Pewit Island in Portsmouth Harbour, which has been previously disturbed by local boat users landing on the island, despite not being permitted to.

We hope the new work and awareness will mean nesting seabirds are able to use the island in large numbers – something which has not been seen since the late 1800s.

Chris Lycett, reserves officer at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “Thanks to the amazing hard work of our team of volunteers, we’re creating lots of new space for terns in the Solent area. Our thanks go to the local community for their help in keeping these wildlife havens peaceful and free from disturbance, so that we can see these amazing birds return to the Solent and thrive.”