The world’s smallest species of gull has been spotted nesting in Scotland for the first time.
The two “little gulls” – photographed at the Loch of Strathbeg, near Fraserburgh – have become the only confirmed report of a recorded breeding in the country and only the sixth in the UK since the 1970s.
The most recent previous occurrence was in Norfolk, in 2007.
Last night, RSPB Scotland, which operates the north-east reserve, said there had never been a record of little gulls raising chicks in the UK.
But it is now hoped that the Loch of Strathbeg’s nesting island will help protect the birds from predators.
Staff will also mount a 24-hour watch using cameras and Richard Humpidge, RSPB Scotland sites manager, said: “We’re really excited to have these smashing little birds nesting on the reserve.
“A few years back, we did a lot of work on our tern nesting island, reshaping it and adding 10 tons of shingle and shelters, as well as installing a fence around the edge of the pool to prevent access for predators.
“It has been a great success: four years ago there were just 10 pairs of common terns and they failed to raise any chicks, the next year there were 60 pairs and this year we have 130 pairs and their eggs are just starting to hatch.
“It’s great that the little gulls are using the same area and we hope it will also give them the protection they need to raise chicks when their eggs hatch shortly.”
Little gulls, or Hydrocoloeus minutus, are the smallest species of gull.
At Loch of Strathbeg, the little gulls will be vastly outnumbered on the nesting island by common terns, which return to the UK in April to nest in a small scrape on sand and gravel in noisy colonies.
Their conservation status is Amber due to localised breeding and they have suffered recent declines in Scotland.
Although Loch of Strathbeg is still closed for renovations, visitors can get great views of the nesting island through the viewing screen next to the car park.