Nesting Rafts – ‘Des Res’ for Migratory Birds

Terns and other migratory birds fly enormous distances to spend spring and summer in the UK, so the cleverly designed bird rafts built by Cox’s Boatyard provide welcome resting and nesting sites for many species.

These custom-made ‘floating hotels’ provide ideal island habitats for birds such as Common Terns, who are able to comfortably nest in sand and gravel-filled nesting decks suspended above the water, safe from predators, currents, flooding and other dangers. Each of the decks has four corner posts made from recycled plastic, which stand a metre high above the side walls and provide ideal perches for the occupants to obtain a ‘bird’s-eye’ view of their surroundings!

Despite their small size (only 23cm in length and 50g in weight), Common Terns (Sterna albifrons) have a high-energy lifestyle. Their immense stamina enables them to perform elaborate aerial displays and to migrate to West Africa from August onwards, before flying back to the UK in April and May. Because their nests are often nothing more than ‘scrapes’ on gravel beaches and their eggs and chicks are so well camouflaged, they are extremely vulnerable to disturbance, so the bird rafts are an excellent conservation aid which should help ensure the species’ continuing survival.

Of course it is not only Common Terns who use the rafts – depending on where they are positioned, they can attract many other species, including Arctic Terns, Little Terns, Oystercatchers and Black-throated Divers.

The glass-fibre rafts can be anchored in lakes, broads, lochs and rivers, and the nesting decks are sub-divided into eight separate compartments, which encourage the birds to feel safe enough to nest and breed. Sealed, floating tanks beneath the decks ensure that the rafts rise and fall gently with the water without fear of disturbance, and small drain holes allow any excess rainwater to easily run out. All in all, they are pretty much ‘five-star’ bird hotels!

So far, six of the Cox’s Boatyard bird rafts have been installed successfully in five different locations across the UK, but it is hoped that they will soon be a common sight on UK waterways.

Several sizes of raft are available, all of which come complete with 750mm high full-length floats, so if your organisation is interested in finding out more, please contact Eric Bishop on 01692 536206 or