28 Nov 2018
Researchers celebrate breeding success in South Korea for the Chinese Crested Tern – a bird once thought extinct. Decoy model birds have helped bolster the new colony, and the species has been spotted in Japan for the first time.
Trying to spot a Chinese Crested Tern amongst a colony of similar-looking Greater Crested can be likened to playing a high-pressure game of ‘’, in which rather than simply completing a fun puzzle-book by spotting a man in a red-striped jumper, the fate of an entire species relies on your attentive eyes.
So when, about three years ago, we reported Thalasseus bernsteini, we were very excited by what it could mean. Korean researchers had spotted five adults and one chick amidst a colony of Black-tailed Gulls on an uninhabited rocky island (Chilsando), 7 km off the southwest coast of South Korea. This was extra special because Chinese Crested Tern was feared extinct until 2000 when breeding birds were rediscovered on the Matsu Islands of Chinese Taiwan, and hadn’t been seen on the eastern side of the Yellow Sea for almost 100 years. Yunkyoung Lee, Researcher from the National Institute of Ecology (South Korea), remembers the moment well: , the Chinese Crested Tern
“When I realised that we were looking at Chinese Crested Terns, I felt a thrill throughout my whole body”, she says. “Their slender appearance with black caps and white backs was eye-catching in the crowded colony of Black-tailed Gulls Larus crassirostris, which have white rounded heads and grey backs. However, in the field, we did not know immediately what they were. We had never seen this species before, let alone ever anticipated that they would lay eggs in Korea.”