Kittiwakes on the Tyne

The River Tyne is now home to an important breeding population of nearly 1,000 pairs of kittiwake, including a colony of over 700 pairs on the Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside. This is thought to be the furthest inland breeding kittiwake colony in the world and is a unique part of the cityscape enjoyed by many local residents and visitors. Kittiwakes are a truly oceanic seabird usually breeding at remote coastal locations and even those nesting within the city travel out to sea to feed.

Along the River Tyne, kittiwakes nest on man-made structures, including various buildings and the Tyne Bridge, which can bring them into conflict with business operators. Over the years, kittiwakes have nested on different sites shifting as buildings are demolished or exclusion measures are installed. This continual movement of birds from one building to another – intentional or otherwise – does not solve problems for local people it simply transfers them and is not sustainable for the birds or businesses.

Planning application threat

The RSPB is objecting to the Gainford Hotels’ application to prevent kittiwakes nesting on the north abutment of the Tyne Bridge.

A successful application would lead to the displacement of more than a hundred pairs of kittiwakes next breeding season. These birds would either move to other nearby manmade structures, potentially causing issues for other local businesses, or they might even fail to nest. This is particularly worrying as the kittiwake has recently been recognised as a species of high conservation concern.

We also have concerns about the proposed use of netting; poor management of this deterrent could cause birds to become trapped, potentially resulting in injury or death.

Most worrying of all, the application might have wider implications for the whole colony as it could set a harmful precedent, leading to further displacement of kittiwakes nesting elsewhere on the Tyne.

We are unhappy that Gainford Hotels has shown such little regard for both its neighbours and a bird, which many regard as an integral part of the character of the Newcastle Gateshead Quayside.

We believe Newcastle and Gateshead Councils need to urgently develop a kittiwake strategy that considers the colony as a whole and seeks to find long-term solutions that meet the needs of both the birds and local people. We would be keen to feed into this process as part of the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership.

You can object to this application by commenting on it here. Please note, you’ll need to register and submit before 16 December.