Kittiwakes upon the Tyne

Showcasing the progress of the Kittiwakes along the River Tyne

Home Tyne Kittiwake Diary

In the first of the updates from the bank holiday weekend, we share news of the drama unfolding on Newcastle Quayside on one of their favourite buildings. Our last update for this building, talked about two events. Firstly some of the adults were becoming trapped as they attempted to spend time where they nested last year. Secondly Kittiwakes were observed spending time on the avi-shock anti-bird deterrent above on the upper reaches of the building.

Well, Our Kittiwakes certainly are resourceful. Where one pair nested in 2019, and 3 pairs nested in 2020, for the 2021 season despite the introduction of those mighty fearsome and troublesome anti-bird spikes, there are now 5 nesting pairs of Kittiwakes. Kittiwakes have successfully nested on a building nearby for the past few years on top of anti-bird spikes and it is possible at least one of these pairs has moved over from their usual building. maybe to show the way and help the others out.

ALSO, a couple of pairs have built nests on the avi-shock high above.

The Avi-shock on the Guildhall must not be turned on and hopefully they
will now not turn it on where these birds are now nesting”.


Well there is some really exciting good news and I guess also some sad news. Firstly as per our visits in April a number of Kittiwakes had started to show signs of nesting on the building to the right of the Ferry Mews and along the guttering on the Ferry Mews building itself. Well, Kittiwakes have actually built nests there.

Secondly a selection of Kittiwakes have nested on top of the anti-bird netting which was installed close to where they usually nest in previous years.

So the good news, Kittiwakes are managing to nest still
at the North Shields Fish Quay
for the 2021 Season”.

The sad news is over the past 3 seasons at another location along the tyne; on Newcastle Quayside; where Kittiwakes have opted to nest on top of such anti-bird netting:

    • chicks at times are able to get through the anti-bird netting and
      as they grow they then find themselves trapped and unable to get back out.
    • quite a few Kittiwakes become accidentally trapped in the netting, and they
      become injured. If they are not rescued in time they sadly loose their lives.

The chances of Kittiwakes becoming trapped in this anti-bird netting in North Shields will be large and it then puts pressure on the fire services and local wildlife charities. At these times quite often the owners of the buildings that actually put up the netting suffer no financial loss. Kittiwakes suffer, as does the public purse and local charities. Change is need to prevent this kind of netting being installed in the first place.

    • This type of anti-bird netting does not actually stop the Kittiwakes nesting.
    • It is dangerous to the Kittwiwakes
    • and at the site in North Shields, the installation of this anti-bird netting has caused
      the Kittiwakes to spread out which means they now occupy a wider area of the building.

So. nothing has been gained at all by adding this new anti-bird netting. The Kittiwakes still nest, but instead their lives are now at risk as at times it can behave like a spider web and accidentally trap the Kittiwakes. Sometimes they are able to break free themselves, sometimes they are rescued at the cost to Fire Service/Rescue charities; however sometimes sadly the Kittiwakes loose their lives. 

Now we are all forced to watch and wait, till Kittiwakes may suffer. and.. this location is such a public area and will receive a lot of attention.

So Sad that it has come to this.  Surely lessons could have been learnt from the last 3 years at other locations where such netting was put up such as Newcastle Quayside”.


20th April 2021

“Another visit to the Gateshead Kittiwake tower tonight. AAJ ringed at the tower in 2017 pictured, with mate.  They’ve chosen a high rise nest on a high rise platform! 18 ringed returning adults ID’d so far.”         Andy Rickeard

On the 19th April 2021

“Some Kittiwakes made homeless by a landlord installing nets in North Shields along the Fish Quay are staying put.  No doubt even a few calling seabirds will continue to upset landlords and tenants, so what next? More nets?”       Chris Charles


On the 17th April 2021

We are not sure if the avi-shock is switched on again on the Guildhall. Kittiwakes at times can be seen resting on the strips and they don’t seem in any way deterred. We are guessing it needs to be either on or off, as we wouldn’t want pairs to start to nest, then find it suddenly switched on.

This could be a HUGE problem for many reasons”.


On the 14th April 2021

What is likely to be the three pairs that nested on the side of the Guildhall last year are experiencing at times very stressful encounters with the new anti-bird spikes.”

Paul Buskin

At times these birds are becoming trapped in the anti bird spikes for up to 20 mins at a time; but in the end so far they have managed to free themselves. Sometimes it takes them a lot of effort and they are clearly in pain. and sometimes they become exhausted trying to free themselves and then have to rest before trying again.

There is a risk at some stage they may not be able to free themselves. At this time, two pairs are spending time on the side of the Guildhall adjacent to some anti-bird netting; whilst a third pair is not giving up on where the anti-bird spikes are. It is highly likely these three pairs will manage to nest on the Guildhall.

Fingers crossed they don’t suffer any more because of these anti-bird spikes.

It is so sad to watch them suffer; especially when they nested so peacefully and successfully last year. They are so determined to continue to nest there. I do worry that at least one bird may be lost this season on these new anti-bird spikes. One pair is not giving up even when they are clearly in pain and at times suffering.


On the 10th April 2021

Guildhall – Newcastle Quayside

As many may remember three pairs nested successfully on the side of the Guildhall during the 2020 season.  This was despite the presence of anti-bird netting and avi-shock. As 2021 dawned however, new spikes were installed where the three pairs nested last year.

What did the Kittiwakes think?”


A Kittiwake checking out the new Anti-bird spikes on the Guildhall – Newcastle Quayside

Well it looks like some of those Kittiwakes have now returned. As you can see it is not impressed to see the spikes. Will it try to nest on these spikes, like the 2+ pairs opposite on the vintage building? or will it look for another loophole on the building where the anti-bird detterants don’t reach?

A Kittiwake resting next to some anti-bird netting on the Guildhall

Well just around the corner, it is possible one of the other Kittiwakes has found such a loophole and can be seen sitting close to some anti-bird netting. On the hotel opposite they do successfully nest on anti-bird netting in situations just like this, so it is highly possible that 1-3 may still manage to nest again on the side of the Guildhall for the 2021 season.

On the 8th April 2021

“This Kittiwake obligingly landed on (a rather choppy) Tyne while I was out on Thursday”.           David Hirst

I hope you like the collage of photos as it came in to land. It’s always a pleasure to see these elegant and attractive small seabirds and a delight to watch them on the water as they delicately pick morsels of food off the surface.

A Kittiwake landing on the sea by David Hirst

Although it was very windy and the river was choppy yesterday, I imagine this Kittiwake faced much worse conditions in the Atlantic, where this bird has probably spent a winter out at sea.

Early April 2021

“This is them from last week. All getting settled in their favourite spot. Webcam should be going live soon”.    Andrew Moore 


Kittiwakes on the Baltic Gallery by Andrew Moore


On the 5th April 2021 

“North wind is seawatching weather, so seawatching I went, at the Walker seaside.”

  by Lophophanes

Light but steady passage of Kittiwakes, with (not sure why!) quite a few immature Common Gulls among them (most 1st winter, a few 2nd winter), but nothing else. Picture: seaweed to prove it’s the sea”.

Seaweed at Walker Riverside Park by Lophophanes


On the 5th April 2021

“For some reason one of my great nephews has named one of the Lombard House birds Steve. Can you figure out which one of the 17 here he is?”     Ashley Bayston


Another sketch from Ashley Bayston © 2021 – Lombard House on Newcastle Quayside


Over 800 Kittiwakes have now returned to the River Tyne colonies. The Baltic Kittiwakes were largely all present today; whilst quite a few birds from the Tyne Bridge colony were resting on the river.  The Tyne Bridge was a lot quieter this afternoon.

Quite a few Kittiwakes were out at sea feeding”

Lombard House and the Railway Bridge however were fully occupied, and the Kittiwakes were getting very cosy.  The Guildhall Clocktower also remains quiet at this time.

Kittiwakes settling down
on Lombard House,
Newcastle Quayside

Over the past couple of seasons approx two dozen Kittiwakes have settled down here; however only a portion has returned so far.

Kittiwakes pairing up on the Guildhall Clocktower

Kittiwakes resting high up on a roof of a Newcastle Quayside Hotel

A single Kittiwake sat on the old Church on the Gateshead side of the river a few weeks ago; whilst over the past week, no birds have been present. A single pair nested on the Gateshead Heritage Centre for the last two seasons and last year fledged one chick.

First they arrive, then they pair up and get cosy…. then the nest building begins.  
There is still time for more Kittiwakes to arrive”.

On the 3rd April 2021

A Fulmar and a Kittiwake together from Tynemouth.


“Very different colours and their tails and wings form unique shapes”

The Fulmars were hanging their legs down at times.  Maybe this was too slow themselves down.  Both species were great to watch whilst showcasing their ‘flight dance’. Well worth experiencing. 


Above:  A Fulmar to the left, whilst a Kittiwake to the right

A Fulmar

On the 1st April 2021

“This is a great location to watch the Kittiwakes in their natural habitat”.

When we visited the cliffs at Tynemouth Haven last week, we didn’t find any Kittiwakes, however when we visited yesterday; over a HUNDRED were in the area. Most were opposite their usual nesting site sitting on the sea in a large group. 30-35 were on the cliffs, getting cosy with their partners.

You can learn more about Tynemouth Haven by visiting one of our partner websites at

Tynemouth Haven is a great location to relax for a few hours. Dozens of coastal species of bird can easily be seen. There is a nearby free car park and local cafes in Tynemouth Village, which is only a short walk away.


“This is our nest”
During the spring/summer months Sand Martins and Fulmars are also present. Some years Black Redstarts can be found if you are very lucky during the winter months.

If you look more closely at the two photo above, you can see this is the same  ‘Kittiwake Triangle’ formation we noted last year.  Kittiwakes often return to nest in exactly the same place.  They spend their winter months, hundreds of miles away far out at sea.   They then return during the spring and summer months to find and defend their ‘spot’ again to breed. Amazing they remember.  

On the 1st April 2021

Phoenix House/Tyne Bridge

“All looks well from the bridge. No injuries or fatalities just lots of snuggles and happy Kittiwakes. Happy Easter!”      Nicola

On the 1st April 2021

Have the displaced Kittiwakes in North Shields found new places to nest?”

We have an update on the Kittiwakes down at North Shields. Last time we featured a single bird, which was sitting on a ledge, located on a building opposite the Ferry Mews. There was evidence that other birds had also been present on that ledge and there were further ledges that were suitable for Kittiwakes to nest on the same building.

A visit today, revealed two pairs of Kittiwakes on that ledge; with a further pair on the ledge to the right. The birds that were there had paired up, which is a strong sign that these birds will nest on these ledges. On Newcastle Quayside at this time, that is the position; where Kittiwakes are pairing up and sitting where they are likely to nest or have nested in the past.

Additionally today over 15 Kittiwakes were present in the gutters on the ferry mews building itself on the roof. As featured in one of last weekends updates; Kittiwakes on Newcastle Quayside actually nest in rain gutters on some buildings on Newcastle Quayside and they fledge young Kittiwakes successfully. Some of the birds present on ferry mews had paired up, which again is a sign that it is likely they may nest there.

Kittiwakes pairing up on the roof”  

Of course these rain gutters are more vulnerable to larger gulls that frequent the fish quay and forces the Kittiwakes to spread out in a line; whereas at the original site (which has been netted) they are more clustered together. So by nesting on the rain gutters, it may make them more vulnerable to predators. Larger gulls may also be able to land more easily. We do see Lesser Black backed Gulls and at times Herring Gulls act as predators on Newcastle Quayside. The Fish quay also has the much larger Greater Black backed, where as usually the Greater Black backed further up the tyne tend to stay more Riverside Park-Walker end.
Time will tell us, if all these Kittiwakes will nest, however there are strong signs at the moment, that the Kittiwakes are going to nest elsewhere on the ferry mews building and on the building opposite.

Further updates will appear here over the next couple of weeks.

On the 30th March 2021

“Return trip to the Gateshead Kittiwake tower tonight. 8 returning adults identified, including ‘ACN’ ringed at the tower as an adult 
in ‘July 2005 Kittiwake Tower’     Andy Rickeard


On the 30th March 2021

“I love this time of year when the Kittiwakes arrive to breed. We’re so lucky to have the furthest inland breeding colony in The World, take up residence along The Tyne and especially The Tyne Bridge, for a few months”.      John Baker

A Kittiwake on the Tyne Bridge by John Baker