Kittiwakes upon the Tyne

The Furthest Inland Breeding Colonies of Kittiwakes in the World

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Update 2024

Newcastle & Gateshead Kittiwake Colonies

As we turn the pages of the story of the Tyne Kittiwakes for another season, we have all been experiencing much colder weather patterns.  Fewer birds have returned this season.   This maybe due to the impact of Avian Flu and our changing climate across the world.  During May Kittiwakes were very busy building their nests on the Baltic gallery.  Their efforts accelerated and as June dawned eggs were on show with the first  starting to hatch from the 6th June. 


The Baltic Gallery Tyne Kittiwake colony

Whilst nearby on the Tyne Bridge there is a similar pattern.  The Kittiwake Hotels; a pair of scaffolding, provided as alternative nesting structures for the Kittiwakes during the restoration work of Gateshead’s Twin Towers; still remain empty. 100-150+ pairs of Kittiwakes were likely to be displaced by the restoration work on the Tyne Bridge this year.  Kittiwakes instead have opted to spend time on the scaffolding surrounding the upper reaches of either sides of the twin towers.  Members of the TKP are aware of this, and it is considered these birds potentially could use this as alternative nesting provision instead, relatively undisturbed by the workmen.  Pairs of Kittiwakes have also started building nests on this scaffolding. 


Photo of Kittiwakes on the Tyne Bridge by Paul Gray

This combined with; If the overall population of Tyne Kittiwakes continues to remain lower for the 2024 season,  could mean the Kittiwake Hotels may not be needed.  Kittiwakes often prospect any new potential breeding sites first the prior season and it is also possible they don’t like the paint that has been used for the Kittiwake Hotels. It is looking like they simply prefer the scaffolding lower down however, which is closer to where they usually nest. 


Photo above:  Not a Kittiwake hotel, but a section of scaffolding on the sides of one of the Bridges Twin Towers

High Level Bridge

Over twenty pairs are spending time on the lower reaches of the High Level Bridge. 4-13 pairs have nested on the High Level Bridge in recent years. Further birds also use the bridge to roost.   At least 13 pairs have built nests so far this season, but it is possible this number will increase as the season develops. 


A view of the River Tyne and the Metro Bridge over the River Tyne,
with Kittiwakes resting on the High Level Bridge to the left

South Shore in Gateshead

Up to half a dozen pairs are settling on the South shore again on the Gateshead side of the river Tyne; one of the newer colonies where up to eight pairs have nested in recent years.

St Mary’s Heritage Centre in Gateshead

Pairs have returned and are enjoying the views from below the clock face on the Gateshead side of the river. Here the owners welcome them to nest and they’re no anti-bird deterrents present. Up to four pairs nest on the Heritage Centre on the Gateshead side of the river.

Phoenix House

As of 2023 up to 54 pairs of Kittiwakes used Phoenix House to build their nests; despite the presence of netting, spikes and anti-bird gel.   As the season dawned, the owners of the Phoenix House building installed new anti bird sheets of plastic and netting on the upper reaches of the building.  There remains sufficient surfaces for pairs to continue to use Phoenix House however during the 2024 season. What is unclear however, is a) will these newly installed anti bird deterrents withstand our changing climate? Will any Kittiwakes become injured?


A view of Phoenix House following the installation of new plastic sheets on the upper reaches

Akenside Traders

Up to a dozen Kittiwakes continue to be found resting on Akenside Traders.  Up to 27 pairs nested on Akenside Traders 2014/15, prior to the installation of areas of anti-bird gel which likely displaced the birds.  At least two pairs have nested for the 2024 season, towards the right side of the building away from any anti-bird gel. 


Two pairs of Tyne Kittiwakes nesting on Akenside Traders on Newcastle Quayside

Nearby hotels

Both hotels where Kittiwakes usually nest, are showing signs of Kittiwake presence.

Bessie Surtees

Anti-bird spikes remain on the upper reaches of the Bessie Surtees building where Kittiwakes have fatally become injured in recent years.  Prior to Kittiwakes returning for another season, anti-bird gel was installed on the Bessie Surtees.  This build is very old and it could be said is not structurally sound to host a colony of Kittiwakes.


Bessie Surtees on Newcastle Quayside

The anti-bird spikes were pointless as they did not deter birds nesting, but did at times fatally injure them with losses over the past two years.  Up to two dozen pairs have nested on the Bessie Surtees in recent years, however only two have returned this season to build their nests.  


Bessie Surtees on Newcastle Quayside



Despite the scaffolding on the Guildhall, anti-bird spikes, netting & avi shock; there is still 1 pair nesting on the side of the Guildhall this season. This is one where there’s a higher risk of a chick getting inside the net before it fledges.



A Kittiwake nesting on the side of the Guildhall on Newcastle Quayside


High above, on the upper reaches; a further 3 pairs are still nesting on top of the Avi-shock. Whilst the Guildhall Clock Tower remains popular with what is in present times the bulk of the Guildhall Tyne Kittiwake colony. Fewer pairs are present on the Guildhall clock tower however this season. 

Railway Bridge

Fewer Kittiwakes have also returned to the railway bridge this year. A further update regarding the railway bridge will follow later this month. 

Queen Street 

For another year, the pairs which returned to Queen Street on Newcastle quayside are nesting peacefully, with again no new anti-bird deterrents. Owners & occupiers of shops below are very understanding & considerate.  


Upper section of the Queen Street Kittiwake colony 

Thanking them for their kindness. no netting or spikes there, just some avi-shock on the upper reaches, where Kittiwakes never venture.



Saltmeadows and Kittiwakery Towers in Gateshead

Up to 170 birds present on the original Saltmeadows Tower, up from  an average of 90 in previous weeks.  Great news from Gateshead. Year 2 for the Kittiwakery and first nest confirmed. One bird sat amongst the decoys on fresh nest material and later visited by its mate.

Photo by Andrew Rickeard
First nest on the Kittiwakery Tower – May 2024




Will more Kittiwakes join the pair that has started to nest on the Kittiwakery Tower?  Lots of thanks go to all those involved with this new tower.  There efforts will certainly be appreciated by the Tyne Kittiwakes.


This photo shows the Saltmeadows Tower on the right;
with the Kittiwakery Tower on the left. 
by Andrew Richard – May 2024

Plans have been submitted to Gateshead Council to enhance the Saltmeadows Tower to help improve chick birth rates.  Council officers are now considering plans to increase the number of nesting ledges available.  The proposals, from Norwegian energy firm Equinor, form part of “compensatory measures” associated with the development of two offshore wind farms in the North Sea, off the North Norfolk Coast.

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