Kittiwakes upon the Tyne

The Furthest Inland Breeding Colony of Kittiwakes in the World

Home Tyne Kittiwake Colonies Tyne Bridge – Kittiwakes Tyne Bridge Restoration

Tyne Bridge Restoration

The restoration of the Tyne Bridge will potentially be the largest hurdle the Tyne Kittiwakes have faced in a generation.  Work is about to begin very soon and there is likely to be disturbance to these important
red-listed sea birds when work starts.

There have been no plans presented or published to create
any artificial structures to offset any disturbance”. 

Over ONE-thousand pairs of Kittiwakes currently nest on the Tyne Bridge, which is over half the Tyne Kittiwake breeding population. The nesting Kittiwakes are distributed between both the Gateshead and Newcastle side of the river. They can be seen nesting high up on the Bridges towers, and the green metal girders in between.

Have Lessons been learnt?

In recent years dozens of Kittiwakes have become FATALLY trapped in anti-bird netting on the Tyne Bridge (largely on the Newcastle side of the bridge),  Due to obvious ACCESS issues, it has not been possible to rescue them.  It has also been very difficult for those responsible for the bridge to maintain any such anti-bird netting. 

If anti-bird netting cannot be maintained effectively,
should it be used?”

As 2022 dawned, notices were posted announcing the commencement of upcoming works on the Tyne Bridge.  These planning notices mentioned new anti-bird netting and the installation of new ledges on some of the bridges towers.  Details were very limited and it was not clear if the available space for the Kittiwakes would be reduced and how many if any pairs of Kittiwakes may be displaced.  

In June 2022 Newcastle City Council secured the necessary funding required to repair and repaint the Tyne Bridge from the government and announced the allocation of a private contractor to carry out the works.  Discussions have taken place between Newcastle City Council, Tyne Kittiwake Partnership and Esh Construction regarding the Kittiwake colony nesting on the bridge. 

Despite assurances that they will be allowed to continue to nest on the Tyne Bridge, there are concerns amongst volunteers and local birdwatchers that additional anti-bird spikes/netting will be installed on the Newcastle side of the quayside on the bridge close to the Guildhall.  Grants are being offered to local businesses, to improve their outdoor areas. Will the Kittiwakes that were there first, be considered during any applications?  Will these outdoor areas cover a wider area?  

There will remain a need to look out for our Tyne Kittiwakes, before, during and after the restoration work on the Tyne Bridge.  Volunteers are watching out for any new anti-bird deterrents being added during and immediately following the restoration work. 

Some may say this iconic bridge was
not built for birds”

Every day, land that was filled with wildlife is replaced with man-made structures to cater for our own expansion.  It is great to have an opportunity to give something back.  The Kittiwakes have adopted the Tyne Bridge, as they feel safe and they love our company every spring/summer. The have fallen in love with the panoramic views, our big river and the quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead.  

Kittiwakes are part of our local heritage.  Kittiwakes have nested
along the river tyne longer than many of us have been alive”

Brand NEW nesting sites

Additional artificial structures similar to the current  Kittiwake Tower could be provided which could help offset any likely disturbance to the Kittiwakes during the restoration of the Tyne Bridge. It is likely there will be some disturbance; despite any efforts to avoid this.

The provision of a new ‘Saltmeadows Tower Cam’ could help stakeholders to further research the existing artificial tower in Gateshead.  The footage from the cam could help with the design of future artificial structures for Kittiwakes.  Additional structures are also likely to be needed as the colony is expanding and over two dozen pairs of Kittiwakes have already been displaced due to the introduction of further anti-bird deterrents on Newcastle Quayside in recent years.

Kittiwake Tower photos by Andrew Rickeard

The existing ‘Kittiwake Tower’  could also be upgraded with a new improved version.  Could the ledges the Kittiwakes nest on be smaller so other larger gulls etc cannot land?  Are some sides more popular than others?  What works well? What does not work well?  Could it be larger, so there is capacity for more?  If more Kittiwakes could be encouraged to nest, on an artificial structure where the Kittiwake Tower is currently located, this could make it less vulnerable to predators 

Kittiwakes upon the Tyne have started efforts to help look out for our local breeding population of Kittiwakes on the Tyne Bridge.  There is not an option to consider trying to relocate the Kittiwakes from the Tyne Bridge.  Over 1,000 pairs nest there; it is perfect for them, and they don’t disturb anyone.  The colony is so large, it would take many structures to house them.  This would also be a backward move, as additional capacity is already needed as the colonies are expanding. The Kittiwakes on the bridge need us to look out for them so they can continue to bring life to future generations of this soft gentle gull. 

Why are we helping the Kittiwakes to nest along the tyne?”

Kittiwake nesting on the Tyne Bridge by Helen

The UK Kittiwake population has fallen by 60% since 1986.  Climate change combined with a drop in their food supplies, is making life very difficult for the Kittiwakes. The breeding population along the quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead is the furthest inland breeding colony of Kittiwakes in the World.

As Kittiwake numbers are shrinking elsewhere, these urban colonies will become even more important

An opportunity to study a coastal sea-gull.”

Many of us have to travel to coastal cliffs and islands usually to witness a Kittiwake nesting.  This is a great opportunity for the younger generation to witness nature up close.  A LIVE wildlife show every spring/summer.