Kittiwakes upon the Tyne

The Furthest Inland Breeding Colonies of Kittiwakes in the World

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Exchange Buildings – Tyne Kittiwakes

Not all buildings have been safe for Kittiwakes to visit

From a humble beginning of only a few breeding pairs close to the mouth of the River in North Shields; the colonies of Tyne Kittiwakes have grown to over two-thousand pairs over the past fifty years.  They have also reached as far as the quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead, where the majority of Kittiwakes can now be found. 


Kittiwakes trapped in anti-bird netting 
On the Exchange Buildings
in July 2018
by Paul Buskin

Many of the older buildings have vanished from the landscape with newer more modern structures spreading across the horizon.  As buildings have been demolished, any Kittiwakes that happened to be nesting, have been forced to look for alternative sites to build their nests.  The Kittiwakes, instinct to breed is strong, as they work to bring life to the next generation.

Not everyone is keen to host, a colony of Kittiwakes, and over the years,
many quayside buildings have become carpeted with spikes,
anti-bird netting, electric shock systems and fire-gel.”  

These anti-bird deterrents have been installed by the owners of the buildings to try and prevent Kittiwakes nesting.  This has been done to protect the buildings.

Guidance on Anti-bird Deterrents

Unfortunately, some of the anti-bird deterrents that have been installed have been proven to trap, injure and at times kill some of the Tyne Kittiwakes that share the quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead during the spring/summer months.”


Kittiwakes trapped in
anti-bird netting
July 2018

One such occaison was during the 2018 breeding season where over a dozen Kittiwakes became trapped and at least eight lost their lives on a building that houses a premier inn on Newcastle Quayside.  Following this sad event, and following a large public response asking for the anti-bird netting to be removed, changes were made.

“In 2018 a ‘Petition‘ was set up asking for the dangerous areas of anti-bird netting, that had been trapping Kittiwakes to be removed.  Lots of people were very concerned about the welfare of the Tyne Kittiwakes”

Over One-Hundred Thousand people signed the petition”


Changes made by owners

The actual day the Kittiwakes returned Spring 2019, areas of anti-bird netting were removed from the top of the ‘Exchange Buildings’.  This was replaced with an alternative anti-bird deterrent called Avi-shock.  This involved an electric shock system that is considered harmless to the Kittiwakes.


A Kittiwake watching anti-bird netting
being removed Spring 2019


During the 2019 breeding season, volunteers from ‘Kittiwakes upon the Tyne’ monitored the new electric shock system and watched out just in case any more Kittiwakes became trapped in any of the anti-bird netting that remained, towering from the top of the building.  No more birds were found trapped that year on the exchange buildings.  Some Kittiwakes landed close to the new anti-bird deterrent; Avi-shock.  Some of these remained undisturbed and continued peacefully to spend time amongst it; whilst others did appear ‘shocked’ and abruptly flew off, shaking their heads; often traveling a great distance, flying off down river.

Welcome at the Inn

Over two dozen Kittiwakes could be found on the roof of the ‘Exchange Buildings’ at times, relaxing and enjoying the delights of the quayside.  One pair loved it so much they chose this location to build their nest.

A Kittiwake next to areas
of ‘Avi-shock’ summer 2019

A Tyne Kittiwake nesting on Premier Inn - Newcastle Quayside - River Tyne


They continued undisturbed and seemed very welcome at the Inn.

A Kittiwake nesting on the
Exchange Buildings
on Newcastle Quayside
Summer 2019

“Those of us that were lucky to watch the pair during the 2019 season were very happy to see a young chick, and this successfully fledged.
Great news!  A Happy Ending”

What about 2019?

Will Kittiwakes be welcome at the Inn?”

Plans were announced in a » local newspaper .  This shared the news of an application to install more avi shock on the exchange buildings that housed the premier Inn.  This included the area where a pair nested in 2019. It can be said that the existing avi-shock which was installed spring 2019 appeared to have been harmless to the local breeding population of Kittiwakes. Also, with only one pair opting to nest there, any installation of new avi-shock would not have a large effect on the Kittiwake colonies. Everyone was very relieved that any anti-bird netting that had been proven to be dangerous to the Kittiwakes had been removed and that no further birds were trapped during the 2019 breeding season on this building. There will be times where some buildings are unsuitable for the Kittiwakes to nest. The choice of fit-for-purpose anti-bird deterrents are important in those cases. Avi-shock appears safe for birds at this time.  

More Avi-shock installed

Prior to the Kittiwakes returning in 2020 additional Avi-shock was installed on the Exchange Buildings.  No Kittiwakes nested there during 2020-2022, however dozens enjoyed this building, relaxing high up on the roof.  During the 2022 season, a pair did spend a lot of time, where a pair nested in 2019, and over half a dozen individuals were spending time on top of the Avi-shock, which would suggest it was switched off. 

On the whole the Kittiwakes use the Exchange Buildings more to relax on the upper reaches, with up to two dozen birds regulary present, on the tiled areas, well away from the Avi-shock.  Where will Kittiwakes themselves choose to nest for 2024?  There is a good chance some pairs may opt to nest on this building, especially during 2024, when work starts on the Tyne Bridge and some pairs will be displaced from there in the short term, whilst essential work is carried out to restore the bridges towers.