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NHSN will speak out for Newcastle's Kittiwakes

1st August 2018

Deceased Kittiwake, July 2018 - Oscar Dewhurst

It has come to our attention over recent days that a number of threatened kittiwakes have perished as a direct result of entrapment in netting designed to deter them from nesting on buildings around Newcastle’s Quayside.

In the last fortnight alone, rescuers have successfully removed a number of birds – both adults and juveniles – from Quayside buildings, including the Aveika restaurant, Premier Inn and the Newcastle Guildhall. While we welcome these rescues and commend those involved, it is clear from footage circulating social media that rescue has come too late for many birds – with 20 fatalities now reported from buildings in the area. Such a loss is entirely unacceptable.

While some find it both distasteful and unethical to deter nesting kittiwakes, we accept that the process is entirely legal, and accept that businesses have a right to erect legal forms of deterrence in order to prevent birds ‘fouling’ their property. With the same also applying to listed buildings owned by local authorities. What businesses do not have the right to do, however, is to roll out poorly maintained or inappropriate forms of discouragement. Something which, with so many birds finding themselves trapped and tangled, may well be the case in Newcastle today. They are also obliged to take all possible action to ensure the safe release of any birds unfortunate enough to find themselves trapped. Failure to fulfil these requirements constitutes a direct breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In respect of this, NHSN has been liaising with Northumbria Police to ensure that they are aware of the situation on the Quayside and we are committed to taking further action should the issues currently emerging not be rectified with haste.

NHSN supports the continued work of the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership to ensure legal deterrents are monitored and maintained accurately, and Kittiwakes on the Tyne safeguarded so to be enjoyed by future generations. We feel that the loss of even one healthy bird due to human action is unacceptable, and highlights an increasing need to protect both individual birds and the Tyne colony as a whole. Particularly, by sufficient monitoring of deterrents so to ensure their compliance with the law and potentially, the erection of new breeding sites to allow extirpated birds to disperse absent harm. It also highlights a need to take action against businesses not operating within the law.

NHSN will be raising this issue with partners involved in the conservation of Newcastle’s Kittiwakes and highlighting a clear need for further action from local bodies.


The River Tyne is currently home to nearly 1,000 pairs of kittiwake, including a colony of over 700 pairs on the Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside. This is the furthest inland breeding colony of kittiwakes in the world and, in the eyes of many, forms a unique part of Newcastle’s wild heritage.

Globally, kittiwakes are thought to have declined by around 40% since the 1970s and were added to the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List in 2015. Later upgraded by the ICUN from a global species of  ‘Least Concern’ to Vulnerable in 2017.

In the UK, kittiwake numbers have crashed, particularly in Orkney and Shetland where breeding birds have declined by 87% since 2000, and on St Kilda in the Western Isles where as much as 96% of the breeding population has now been lost. With such declines, to a lesser but still significant extent, mirrored at colonies elsewhere, including in North East England.

– James Common, Communications Officer