The River Tyne supports an important breeding population of around 800 pairs of Kittiwakes. You can find out about the birds, how to see them and efforts to protect them.
The Kittiwakes that breed alongside the River Tyne nest on man-made structures, often on old buildings, which provide a similar environment to the sea cliffs that they normally use. In the past they have sometimes been displaced when old buildings were knocked down or redeveloped.
One of the Kittiwake colonies is on, and around, the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle / Gateshead quayside, which is the furthest inland colony in the world. Newcastle is almost unique amongst world cities in having a seabird colony in its centre. We think it is fantastic that local people and visitors are able to experience this amazing wildlife spectacle against the iconic landmarks of the Tyne bridges, the Sage and the Baltic art gallery. We also feel it shows that wildlife and humans can co-exist, but like all relationships it takes a bit of getting used to – unfortunately not everyone appreciates the noises, smells and detritus of a seabird colony in full swing!
The Tyne Kittiwakes Partnership has formed to ensure that the Kittiwake population along the Tyne is safeguarded and to work together to improve our understanding of the birds and their conservation needs. The Partnership includes the Natural History Society of Northumbria, RSPB, Northumberland and Durham Wildlife Trusts, Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside Councils, Newcastle University and individual researchers and ornithologists.
There have been some queries about the use of netting so here are a few notes which the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership hopes will help.
The installation of bird deterrents, such as netting or spikes, outside the breeding season (September to February) is not illegal and, if done correctly, should not present a hazard to kittiwakes. It is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure that deterrents are legal and fit for purpose. Birds can become accidentally entangled and trapped. If you notice any trapped kittiwakes, please alert the property owner and RSPCA.
The Partnership recognises that the use of deterrents is likely to result in kittiwakes being displaced and having to find alternative nest sites. We are working to safeguard the Tyne kittiwakes and provide additional nesting sites where practical. We welcome your support in helping to look after these beautiful seabirds, and will continue efforts to raise awareness and understanding of this unique and very special river nesting colony.
A blog containing a more in-depth description of the Tyne kittiwakes current situation can be found here, courtesy of RSPB Northern England.
The Kittiwakes return to Newcastle Gateshead quayside in mid-March and usually depart in August.
You can watch them live online via the Baltic Art Gallery/Durham Wildlife Trust webcam, click here.
You can get excellent views of nesting birds from the paths on and below the Tyne Bridge, from the viewing area on the 4th floor of the Baltic art gallery and at the Kittiwake Tower downstream from the Baltic.
Please share your stories, observations and photos about the Tyne Kittiwakes on social media:
To find out more about the Tyne Kittiwakes and the work of the Partnership, please follow the links below.