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Sterns in Ghana
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Tern research in Ghana

Black tern
Sandwich tern

Ghana is one of the most important areas in Africa for overwintering European-breeding terns.

In September and October, more than 100,000 terns can be found along the coast of Ghana. These are mainly common terns, Sandwich terns, Roseate tern and Black tern.

Monitoring through the Ghana Wildlife Society (Birdlife partner)

Waterbirds, including terns, have been counted by the Ghana Wildlife Society (Birdlife partner) for many years. Furthermore, this society works

Center for African Wetlands

In 2000 and 2002, terns in Ghana have received extra attention. The Centre for African Wetlands, which is stationed in Ghana, has set about increasing the background knowledge of terns. This work is focused on those species that breed in Europe and winter in Africa, including the black tern.

Framework for tern research in Ghana

This includes setting up programs to count terns as well as research into their ecology. An important aim of the program is to include local bird conservation groups and to increase the knowledge of wetland systems. Many terns forage at sea and use coastal wetlands as resting places. These wetlands are also in themselves important foraging areas. The relationships between the sea and these wetlands are clear and the protection of these resources is helped by the work on terns. Local fishermen are just as dependent on these resources as the terns. In many cases the fishermen even watch the terns to find schools of fish at sea.

The tern project and workshop in Ghana

In 2000, the first research into the relationships between black terns and the sea, wetlands and fishermen began (van der Winden et al. 2002). It was also investigated whether participants from other countries in West Africa could be involved in the program. This culminated in the formation of the West African Tern Workgroup atan international symposium in Accra. Participants from Senegal (Direction Parc Nationaux), Ghana (Centre for African Wetlands, Ghana Wildlife Society), Benin (CEROE) and the Netherlands (Bureau Waardenburg) were represented at the symposium.

Research techniques

During subsequent fieldwork in the Densu Delta, methods for counting terns and research techniques for studying the ecology of terns were put into practise. This area was found to hold many thousands of terns, including 5,000 black terns. Ringing fieldwork resulted in recaptures of birds ringed in the Netherlands, Britain and the Azores.

Terns feeding along the coast were thought to use local fishermen as they pulled their nets ashore. Systematic observations revealed that the terns took only very few fish from the nets, but instead mostly took fish that had escaped as the nets were being pulled ashore.