NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Remains of UK's oldest Arctic tern found at nature reserve

Arctic tern Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An average tern lives to 13 years of age

The remains of the UK's oldest recorded Arctic tern have been discovered on an Aberdeenshire nature reserve.

The seabird found at Forvie National Nature Reserve lived to 32 years of age. An average tern lives to 13.

The previous record holder was a tern recaptured on the Farne Islands off Northumberland in 2010, just over 30 years after being ringed as a chick.

Conservationists said the discovery "showed the importance of our protected areas and reserves for wildlife".

The oldest bird was first ringed as a chick at Buddon Ness in Angus.

Image copyright Scottish Natural Heritage
Image caption Terns can clock up 44,000 flying miles a year

Arctic terns' pole-to-pole migration is the longest-known annual journey by any animal.

By moving continually between Arctic summer and the Antarctic summer, the tern flies up to 44,000 miles each year.

Daryl Short, a reserve officer at Forvie who found the bird, said: "It's incredible to think that the bird I found flew the equivalent of to the moon and back, and then back to the moon and some way home again.

"Arctic terns are amazing animals. The birds are currently protecting their chicks at Forvie and other nature reserves around the country and they're not afraid to give you a bump on the back of the head if you get too close to their nests.

"But, unfortunately for them, terns are prey for some other seabirds, such as falcons and large gulls. So there was certainly an element of luck to this bird's long life."

'Surprise and delight'

Stuart MacQuarrie, head of nature reserves for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), said there was clear evidence that the bird regularly returned to the north-east of Scotland to rear its chicks.

He said: "Scotland's nature reserves are beautiful places for people to visit. They are also carefully managed for conservation and important places for research, making a real contribution to tackling biodiversity loss.

"Our reserves constantly surprise and delight in equal measure and this little bird captures something of what makes them so special."

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