Kittiwakes upon the Tyne

The Furthest Inland Breeding Colony of Kittiwakes in the World

Home Kittiwake Colonies Phoenix House – Newcastle Quayside

A Vintage choice for the
Tyne Kittiwakes

Over two dozen pairs of Kittiwakes
settle down to nest

As more and more of the Tyne Kittiwake’s favourite buildings, are either demolished or made unusable following the installation of new anti-bird deterrents, they are finding themselves searching for alternative places to nest and bring life to the next generation of Kittiwakes.

This is especially important at this time, as globally  Kittiwake populations are suffering large reductions. Phoenix House, close to the Tyne Bridge was chosen by the Kittiwakes to build their nests.  The owners of the building, were unable to let the Kittiwakes continue to nest and in an effort to prevent them nesting, they installed anti-bird deterrents such as netting.

“Kittiwakes became trapped
in and behind
anti-bird netting”

A young Kittiwake trapped behind anti-bird netting


A young Kittiwake
Trapped behind anti-bird neeting
On Phoenix House
Summer 2018

This did not stop the Kittiwakes nesting and the Kittiwakes continued to build their nests on and  around the netting. Unfortunately during the 2018 breeding season, two adults became fatally trapped in anti-bird netting and a chick become trapped behind some netting.    The chick remained trapped from the 19th July till the 30th July 2018.

“The chicks small size enabled it to fit through; but as the bird started to grow, it found find itself imprisoned and unable to escape.  Thankfully the bird was eventually freed and taken into care by the Fire and Rescue Service and the RSPCA”.

A new anti-bird deterrent used – ‘fire-gel’.

As the Kittiwakes started to return to the River Tyne and the Quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead early 2019, the owners of Phoenix House removed some of the unsuitable ‘anti-bird netting’ and replaced these with a new anti-bird deterrent; fire-gel. To a bird the harmless (and invisible to the human eye) Ultra Violet (UV) light projecting from the non-toxic Gel is seen as a flame and hence a hazard to avoid.  The small group of Kittiwakes that settled down, high up on Phoenix House, showed signs of being unhappy with the fire gel, however their instinct to nest was higher.  They adapted to its presence pretty quickly. 


Kittiwakes continued
to nest

The new anti-bird deterrent ‘fire-gel’ did not stop Kittiwakes nesting on the top of ‘Phoenix House’.  Over two dozen pairs settled in and nested during the 2019 breeding season.  Tyne Kittiwakes built their nests adjacent to the gel. 

Kittiwakes nesting on Phoenix House during 2019

“Four pairs constructed their nests precariously on some of the vintage arches.”

They put a lot of effort into constructing these new nests, and they proved to be very secure in the end. It is amazing how Kittiwakes can nest on tiny ledges and so high up.  Ten-out-of ten for effort.


2020 Breeding Season

Kittiwakes returned to nest again during 2020 and over two dozen pairs successfully nested on this historic building.  Sadly, a few Kittiwakes became trapped in some of the remaining anti-bird netting, that was not fit-for-purpose.  Thankfully, some were rescued by the RSPCA and Blyth Wildlife Rescue; however, some lost their lives.  

Discussions took place between volunteers from Kittiwakes upon Tyne, The Tyne Kittiwake Partnership, RSPCA and the owners of the building to hopefully see the removal of this area of anti-bird netting prior to the Kittiwakes returning for the 2021 season. 

Kittiwakes nesting on Phoenix House in 2020


 So was the remaining anti-bird netting that
was accidentally trapping Kittiwakes removed?”  

Yes, it was dismantled prior to the Kittiwakes returning early 2021.  This has been replaced with a fresh batch of anti-bird gel.  Thanks go to the owners of the building and the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership, that helped make this happen. Will the anti-bird gel deter the Kittiwakes nesting?  Our own observations, suggest, too little of the gel has been used, and we are not sure if this is the same type which was used on a nearby building.  A building opposite used to host dozens of nesting Kittiwakes, however following the installation of anti-bird gel they were deterred from continuing for future seasons.  So anti-bird gel does work at times. 

“So Kittiwakes have been returning to nest for the 2021 season.  
Did they return to Phoenix House?”

Kittiwakes pairing up on Phoenix House – 21st March 2021

Observations so far, suggest the Kittiwakes  will continue to nest, and the anti-bird gel has not deterred them from nesting.  As you can see in this photo, Kittiwakes have landed and are pairing up.  The quantity of anti-bird gel present is quite low and not all areas are covered. 


Breeding Tyne Kittiwakes

A Review 1994-2020 – NHSN talks
With Daniel M Turner,
Tyne Kittiwake Partnership

The River Tyne nesting kittiwakes have shown a remarkable story since their beginnings in 1949. Explore a new talk as local ornithologist, Dan Turner, shares some of their nesting sites along the Tyne and examines trends in their numbers and breeding success.        Click here to watch on YouTube

“At times the Tyne Kittiwakes fly as far away
as the Farne Islands in Northumberland to feed”

During this talk it references a paper by Chris Redfern and Richard Bevan.
A comparison of foraging behaviour in the North Sea by Black-legged Kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla from an inland and a maritime colony. This can be found on Taylor and Francis Online