Monday, 19 July 2021

Who's A Little Pickie Now?

Some of you have commented on Rosie's fondness for a "Picky Lunch" - this past weekend I have learned something new. Norfolk has its very own "Little Pickies" - this is the name used along the north Norfolk coast for the Little Tern.

This is because they skilfully ‘pick’ fish from the sea with their bills. They will only fly a short distance from their nest site to forage. They feed mostly on Sand Eels and young Herring, by plunge-diving to catch them, and will also feed on shrimps and small invertebrates. The number of eggs they lay and the survival of their chicks is largely dependent on food availability.

Little Terns weigh the same as a tennis ball. The male carries a fish to attract a mate; and they live – and breed – into their 20s; migrating to West Africa every year. 

The National Trust report that in 2014, a little tern was found to have died at Blakeney, having been ringed as a chick in Lincolnshire 21 years previously. The bird, a female, had an egg inside, so was still breeding at 21, having migrated between England and Africa 19 times during her life. 

There are now less than 2000 breeding pairs across the UK- 20% of them on the North Norfolk Coast. But they do not lay their eggs in sensible places - their camouflaged nests on the beach get washed away by high tides in stormy weather. The National Trust have been using "little tern decoys" to encourage them to safer sites, slightly further inland. And it seems to be working! 

The Norfolk Coast Partnership is working with the RSPB, National Trust, and Norfolk Wildlife Trust to help protect and conserve these birds - whose forked tails and aerial acrobatics make them the 'swallows of the shoreline'

I learned al these facts from the NCP "Guardian" magazine [read it online here]  Melinda Appleby has even written a Little Tern 'shape poem'

Fake News; It is not true that drug pushers have been growing marijuana plants on Blakeney Marshes, because "they want to leave no tern un-stoned"!


  1. I LOVED reading about the Terns! 21 is very old! That's Brilliant. Glad to hear they are being encouraged to lay their eggs more safely.
    Beautiful poem!

    1. I've done shape poems with children at school, they love writing them.

  2. This was a wonderful post, I learned a lot. Have forwarded it to several friends who will be interested.

    1. Thank you Jan. The whole magazine was very informative

  3. I love birds, especially shore birds (our granddaughter was almost named Piper--I lost the contest). This was so interesting. I felt exhausted for that poor pregnant tern...


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