MAJOR works on the Forth Road Bridge will go quietly to protect seabirds that are are nesting below it.

Special measures are being taken to reduce the noise and visual disturbance for a colony of common terns on Long Craig Island.

Their breeding period runs typically from May to August and BEAR Scotland, who are currently replacing the main expansion joints on the bridge, aim to give them the silent treatment.

A spokesperson explained: "Long Craig Island beneath the Forth Road Bridge is part of the Forth Islands Special Protection Area, which is designated for a range of breeding birds.

"The island is now home to a colony of nesting common terns. We think they could not have chosen a better backdrop to make their home.

"All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that it is an offence to cause disturbance to birds at, on, or near their nests when breeding."

To protect the terns, no access to Long Craig Island, by boat or any other means, is permitted and sound attenuation barriers have been fitted to the north main tower, which falls within a 400-metre noise exclusion zone.

The barriers are soundproof floor panels and curtains which block out any construction noise.

Monitoring equipment is in place around the clock; engineers will be alerted if sounds exceed 75 decibels and if there is a noise breach, construction work will be stopped immediately.

A clerk of works with previous ornithological experience will also monitor the terns to see if they are affected.

If they are disturbed by construction noise, work will be stopped immediately.

The spokesperson added: "These beautiful seabirds face many threats to their existence.

"Disturbance from human activities is one potential cause of colony abandonment.

"Fortunately, in the Firth of Forth, there are several breeding grounds which in recent years have provided safe havens to a seabirds and their hatchlings.

"BEAR Scotland will continue to support NatureScot and the terns and hope they have a very successful breeding season this summer."