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A Picnic for the Birds

Zeebrugge harbour bar is best for Sandwiches

A man-made peninsula, constructed as a refuge for terns nesting on land scheduled for industrial development, now holds 2% of the world`s breeding Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis.

In the mid-1980s, the harbour at the Belgian city of Zeebrugge was massively increased with the construction of two dams reaching far into the sea. Almost immediately, Common Terns Sterna hirundo began to use the new industrial land for breeding, and the first colony of Sandwich Terns arrived in 1989. To create a long-term breeding location for the birds ? whose dune and beach habitats are under pressure from holidaymakers ? sand and seashells were spread on the eastern dam. Despite this, and later efforts to build a 3.5 ha peninsula for the birds to use, almost all the terns remained in parts of the harbour where industrial development was planned.In the early spring of 2004, the peninsula was doubled to 7 ha, and terns immediately adopted the new site. All of the harbour`s 3,400 pairs of Sandwich Tern (2% of the world population) are breeding on the peninsula, along with more than 1,000 pairs of Common Tern and 150 pairs of Little Tern Sterna albifrons (half the harbour`s population of these two species).

The peninsula was a joint project by the Flemish regional government, Zeebrugge harbour authorities and BirdLife Belgium.

4th July 2014