Chinese Crested Tern in danger

Chinese crested ternsFrom BirdLife:

“Alarm-call” for China’s rarest bird


A study of Chinese Crested Tern highlights that the global population has fallen to less than fifty individuals, half what they were just three years ago.

The study believes that the main cause of this decline is an unregulated expansion in trade for seabird eggs, a local delicacy that has risen in demand alongside a thriving tourist economy.

Without urgent action conservationists have given the bird less than five years before disappearing completely from its two remaining breeding areas.

Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini is China’s rarest bird, listed by BirdLife International as Critically Endangered – the most severe threat category.

First discovered in 1861 and rarely recorded since, Chinese Crested Tern was largely presumed extinct until 2000, when four adults and four chicks were found amongst a colony of other tern species on Matsu, an island off the coast of Fujian Province. In 2004, it was discovered breeding at another site: Jiushan Islands, on the coast of Zhejiang Province of eastern China. At present these are the only known breeding sites in the world.

“We all thought we had lost this species sixty years ago and were so happy to hear of its rediscovery in 2000,” commented Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Manager at BirdLife’s Asia Division. “Its survival in Fujian and Zhejiang waters was probably due to the tension between Beijing and Taipei.”

“It would be such an irony if the Chinese Crested Tern survived amid the hostility in the Taiwanese Strait, yet becomes extinct now the relationship between Beijing and Taipei gradually normalises,” he added.

“Both sides of the Strait should work together to save this, the rarest bird in China – otherwise it will be sure to follow the Baiji [Yangtze River Dolphin] as another ecological tragedy of the early 21st century.”

The recent survey, undertaken by a Chinese survey team, is the first time Chinese Crested Tern have been surveyed over successive breeding seasons.

See also here. And here.

Matsu is controlled by the Taipei government; Jiushan by the Beijing government.

With an estimated population of not more than 50 birds, the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini is China’s most threatened bird and much rarer than the Giant Panda: here.

A wintering Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini has been seen and photographed in Pulau Lusaolate, north Seram, Indonesia, representing the first record of the species outside the breeding season for over 70 years: here.

6 thoughts on “Chinese Crested Tern in danger

  1. Rare birds sighted on Matsu islet

    Wednesday, Jul 23, 2008, Page 2

    Chinese Crested Terns rest on rocks in the Matsu Islands. Conservationists were worried when they saw one of the birds with a section of a plastic pipe stuck to its beak, and they believe the rare birds are in need of care.
    The Lienchiang County Government yesterday launched an attempt to save a group of Chinese Crested Terns — a critically endangered species — found roosting on one of the islets in the Matsu Islands.

    Ko Mu-shun (柯木順), director of the Construction Bureau under the county government, which has jurisdiction over the Matsu Islands, said the decision was reached after consultation with the Council of Agriculture.

    The team, consisting of bird experts and county government officials, landed on an islet where an international bird-watching group sighted a small colony of Chinese Crested Terns last week. The team will examine the situation and decide whether to ask the Wild Bird Society of Taipei to send experts for a rescue mission, Ko said.

    Last week, Simon Liao (廖世卿), vice president of the Taiwan International Birding Association, and 10 other executives of bird-watching associations from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands, saw 16 Chinese Crested Terns — the largest number of the rare birds ever recorded.

    They said one of the birds had a section of plastic pipe around the bottom of its beak, and that if the object was not removed, the bird could die of starvation within a few days.

    Pictures of the bird were carried in local media on Monday.

    The Chinese Crested Tern, also known as Thalasseus bernsteini, is one of the world’s rarest birds, with the entire population reported to be fewer than 50 birds.

    For most of the 20th century, the species was thought to be extinct, with confirmed sightings in the wild ceasing in 1937.

    However, in 2000 a filmmaker discovered a small number of the birds in the Matsu Islands, with the number growing steadily in the past years.

    During the latest sighting, bird-watchers said they saw three young birds at the colony, which they saw as evidence that the rare birds are breeding in the Matsu Islands.


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