Phoenix House – Tyne Kittiwakes
“Over two dozen pairs of Kittiwakes
settle down to nest on Phoenix House”
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.
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 this
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 were fatally injured 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 this 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.
The new fire-gel anti-bird deterrent did not stop the Kittiwakes from nesting on top of Phoenix House. Over two dozen pairs settled down during the 2019 breeding season. The nesting birds remained amongst the gel and successfully raised young chicks.
“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 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.
“Was the remaining anti-bird netting that
was accidentally trapping Kittiwakes removed?”
Yes, it was dismantled prior to the Kittiwakes returning early 2021. This was 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. Did the anti-bird gel deter the Kittiwakes nesting? Our own observations, suggest, too little of the gel was 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.
“ Kittiwakes returned for the 2021 season.
Did they continue to nest on Phoenix House?”
Yes, the over two dozen pairs remained on Phoenix House during the spring/summer months and successfully fledged young Kittiwakes. The new fire-gel didn’t appear to disturb the Kittiawakes at all. Unfortunately despite, the removal of the area of anti-bird netting that was proven to trap and injure Kittiwakes during the 2020 season; two adult Kittiwakes lost their lives on separate areas of netting/clips that remain on the upper reaches of the roof. Whilst some anti-bird netting remains, there is always a risk. Talks are on-going with the owners to try and prevent any Kittiwakes becoming injured or trapped as a result of anti bird detterants. It is recognzied however, that this is a red-flagged building and the owners are not able to allow this Kittiwakes colony to remain here long term.
There remains capacity on the Tyne Bridge for more pairs; however if Newcastle City Council were to follow Gateshead Councils example and provide an artificial structure similar to the Kittiwake Tower; we are sure this would be welcomed by the Tyne Kittiwakes. We do appreicate however, that the Kittiwakes themselves choose where to nest, so persuading them to move away from nesting on city centre buildings, is not always simple.