Kittiwakes upon the Tyne

The Furthest Inland Breeding Colonies of Kittiwakes in the World

Home Tyne Kittiwake Colonies Ferry Mews and Smiths Dock – North Shields

North Shields – Tyne Kittiwakes

Ferry Mews & Smith’s Dock 
Tyne Kittiwake Colonies


Kittiwakes were first discovered nesting along the river Tyne in the town of North Shields in 1949 by John Coulson. John found pairs nesting on the old Brewery Bond Warehouse.  At its peak this colony climbed up to around one-hundred pairs of Kittiwakes.  

Once upon a Tyne, in the fishing town of North Shields”

Later in life, John invested a great deal of his time researching Kittiwakes and you can read about his extensive work in his book ‘The Kittiwake by John C Coulson‘.    Sadly, in 2000, the Brewery Bond building was netted, prior to being converted into modern apartments.  A collection of remaining pairs, continued to nest nearby on the Ferry Mews building, adjacent to the Ferry Landing.

The Kittiwake – by John C Coulson

Published 2011 – T & AD Poyser

  • An essential companion for all academics studying seabirds,
    colonial species and especially Kittiwakes.
  • Beautifully illustrated and features photos of our well-loved Tyne Kittiwakes

Elsewhere in North Shields, Kittiwakes nested for a time on the
Lifeboat House, where ledges were added in the 1990s to help support the small colony.  Up to three dozen nests rose and the Kittiwakes settled down.  Unfortunately, like many of the buildings, the Tyne Kittiwakes have adopted themselves to nest over the years, this did not turn out to be a ‘forever home’ and the Lifeboat House itself was eventually demolished. 

Opposite the river, in the town of South Shields, which also sits at the mouth of the River Tyne, Kittiwakes were also evicted from the McNulty Offshore Yard, Tyne Dock, where there was a colony of up to 55 pairs.  An alternative nesting structure was built and provided, following the destruction of the McNulty building; which was considered to be in poor condition.  Up to fifty-Five pairs nested in 2012 on the McNulty building; but there were Zero pairs from 2015 as the Kittiwakes themselves didn’t nest on the alternative structure which had been thoughtfully provided as compensation for the loss of their original nesting site; the McNulty building. 

Why did the Tyne Kittiwakes choose NOT to nest on
the artificial structure that was provided for them?”

In the present day up to twenty-four pairs continue to settle on the Ferry Mews, which itself is facing pressures, which could in the end cause the eviction AGAIN of this important small colony, where the story of the Tyne Kittiwakes all began. 

Kittiwakes have been nesting along the River Tyne since the 1940’s, which is longer than most of us have been alive. They are part of Tyneside’s Local History and Heritage


Tyne Kittiwakes – Ferry Mews in North Shields, North Tyneside. – by Andrew Clayton

As 2021 dawned, the owner of the Ferry Mews building installed anti-bird netting, over the area where the colony had nested in previous years.  This happened only a few weeks before they were due to return from their winter far out to sea; therefore, there was no time to look at alternative nesting sites.

Kittiwakes can become trapped in anti-bird netting; sadly at times fatally.”

Between the 2021-23 seasons at least four Kittiwakes became trapped in anti-bird netting on the Ferry Mews building, with some so badly injured/in shock they didn’t make it through the night despite rescue attempts.  


A Tyne Kittiwake 
with a chick on 
Ferry Mews in North Shields 
by Andrew Clayton

These trappings so far seem more related to areas of older netting that is also present on the top of the building.  Lots of thanks go to
» Blyth Wildlife Rescue and the local Fire Service for helping with any rescues.  

Petition –

Daniel Turner started a petition to try and encourage the owner of the building to remove all the anti bird netting.  Despite all his efforts the netting still remains.


A Tyne Kittiwake trapped in anti bird netting  on the  Ferry Mews in North Shields by Paul Buskin

Please help support Dan Turner and sign the petition at » regarding the campaign to help save the
North Shields colony.  As the netting ages, it becomes more of a hazard to birds.  Once it becomes damaged, it is then not possible to carry out repairs if Kittiwakes are nesting nearby during the spring/summer months ; so further Kittiwakes can become trapped.  The anti-bird netting can act like a large spider web and whilst it remains it is a hazard to wildlife, especially birds. 

A Tyne Kittiwake nesting on anti-bird netting –
Ferry Mews in North Shields by Paul Buskin

What did the
Kittiwakes think

Kittiwakes continue to nest
in North Shields

Despite the introduction of new anti-bird netting, which now covers the area where the colony have nested in previous years; Kittiwakes nested during the 2021-23 breeding seasons and successfully raised young chicks with
up to 24 pairs nesting in North Shields on the Ferry Mews building. 

Tyne Kittiwakes nesting in the guttering on the roof of the Ferry Mews in North Shields by Paul Buskin

The anti-bird netting on the Ferry Mews Building in North Shields may have NOT STOPPED the Kittiwakes from nesting; however it has encouraged the colony to spread out along the roof of the building. Pairs are nesting along the guttering over the past three seasons.  So this new anti-bird netting is wasteful and whilst it remains, it continues to be a potential hazard to the local wildlife.    

An adult Kittiwake with chicks on the Ferry Mews building

in North Shields, North Tyneside by Andrew Clayton.

An article was published in a national newspaper; the
» Guardian.



2024 Season

As the pages of the Story of the Tyne Kittiwakes turn for another season,  a  sad chapter is beginning. Where dozens nested on the Front of Ferry Mews; all are absent in ’24.  Fewer pairs have also returned to nest in the guttering; with only a single pair on building next door. They need our help!  This reduction in numbers is likely due to Avian Flu, as seabird colonies closer to the coast where a variety of species nest, are more vulnerable.  


Ferry Mews in North Shields, North Tyneside.

Smiths Dock in North Shields

During the 2021-2023 seasons Kittiwakes spent time around Smiths  Dock in North Shields, close to the Ferry Landing.  Access is more limited to this site.  At this location the Kittiwakes have started to build their nests quite low down and are more exposed to predators.  They have been gathering however in groups of 50-100 at times.  Nesting pairs are less than a dozen, however this is expected to grow in the coming years. 

Up to five pairs nesting during the 2023 season,
but sadly they failed to successfully raise any chicks that year”. 

Kittiwakes nesting at Smith Dock in North Shields during 2022, by Andrew Clayton

 2024 Season

As of the 19th May, so far no pairs have returned to nest at Smiths Dock. There is still time however, as often Tyne Kittiwake colonies which are closer to the coast, start later than those further inland.  Initial signs are not positive however. 


Old Low Light – North Shields, North Tyneside.

Old Low Light

Bringing People together from North Shields and beyond.  The home of fabulous wildlife walks with David Hirst.
Explore the wildlife wonders of the mouth of Tyneside’s  Big River; The River Tyne.