Monday Bird of the Week No.52 – Kittiwake

A change of pace today. After a couple of widespread species I thought we’d look at a few more specialist species. Starting with a coastal specialist, the pretty little Kittiwake.

Despite being a specialist, the Kittiwake is widespread. Go to any decent seabird colony around the UK and chances are you’ll find them nesting on the cliffs. In fact, it is our most common breeding gull, more so than Black-headed or Herring Gulls. And more than six times as abundant as the misnamed Common Gull.


While I call it a coastal specialist, there is one place they have moved inland. Newcastle and Gateshead have the most inland breeding population of Kittiwake anywhere in the world. Around 800 pairs have taken up residence on manmade structures such as the towers of the Tyne bridge, and return year-on-year to a reliable breeding colony. It’s a great success story for a bird that, while our most common breeding gull, is still seeing substantial decline in parts of the country. The birds on the Tyne travel as much as 100 miles out to sea to collect food for their chicks, taking on the extra work for the benefit of a safe location.

Juvenile kittiwake

Sadly that safety is under threat, predictably enough, from humans. Despite being on the Tyne for decades, some locals and businesses have complained about the noise and mess the nesting birds make. The Vermont Hotel illegally put spikes up to try deter the birds, and to its credit Newcastle City Council removed the spikes and refused the hotel permission to make any such deterrent.

Fortunately the bird is currently a protected species, and we can but hope the local Council continue to recognise and appreciate an internationally unique and important site.

Adult kittiwake

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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