People are being urged to hire a home on a Northumberland island - to help one of the UK’s rarest seabirds.
The RSPB is leasing out nest boxes on Coquet Island off Amble for use by roseate terns.
The wildlife sanctuary island is the only roseate nesting colony in the UK, with pairs travelling over 4,000 miles from West Africa to breed there each year.
In 2000 the RSPB began providing wooden house-shaped nesting boxes in terraces for the roseate terns.
At that time there were only 24 nesting pairs.
But the boxes were such a hit with the birds that last year 71 pairs nested and this summer the figure rose to 78.
The boxes significantly improve the terns’ chances of breeding success by protecting the chicks from bad weather and predation from gulls.
“Roseate terns also like peace and quiet and the boxes provide them with their own little space,” said Paul Morrison, RSPB site manager on Coquet Island.
“The birds also like to be together and so the boxes are arranged in terraces.”
Without the boxes, the terns would nest in rock crevices or use rabbit or puffin burrows.
There are 60 nest boxes available to lease with prices starting at £60 per year for individuals and £150 for businesses.
The money raised from the scheme will help provide 24-hour protection for the birds, preventing unwelcome visitors from disturbing the birds or stealing the eggs for their collections. It will also be used to continue to research the reasons for the decline of roseate terns over the past four decades.
Funds are also needed to provide more boxes if the roseate tern population increases next year.
Paul said: “It is vital that we do everything we can to give roseates a home on Coquet Island.
“Unless we protect and cherish and protect these birds, they could disappear from our shores altogether.
“Sponsoring a nest box will help to ensure that roseates continue to breed on the island for future generations.”
The RSPB team pulled out all the stops to create a des res situation for the roseates.
They used a camera to monitor the birds’ behaviour and found that they were carrying in shell fragment shingle and throwing it into the boxes to create nesting scrapes.
So the team used a wheel barrow to transport shingle from the other side of the island for use by the birds.
Everyone who sponsors a nest box will receive a certificate and regular updates on the birds that are using their box.
RSPB corporate partnership manager Mike Harris said: “The boxes are numbered so the wardens can monitor the birds when they arrive and see if they are ringed which will provide more information about them to pass on to people who lease.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring a box should contact Mike Harris at email@example.com or on 07738 029905.