Kittiwakes are beautiful, elegant gulls. Yes, those words really do go together.
The UK has 8% of the world’s population. It’s one of our most common seabirds and yet has seen catastrophic declines in the last 30 years. Kittiwakes always lay two eggs except for very rare occasions when they lay just one or lay three. The average number of eggs they lay is 2.01. That’s pretty close to 2, isn’t it? In the late 1980s, Kittiwakes produced one successful chick on average per nest. By 2008 that had declined to one chick on average per four nests.
There’s a large Sandeel fishery on Dogger Bank which takes much of their food. When it does well, Kittiwakes do badly. I’m told that there’s only one Sandeel fishery operating in the North Sea at the moment, a Danish boat, and the 1,000,000 tonnes a year of Sandeels that Sandeel fisheries are capable of taking end up in animal feed and as fertiliser for intensive agriculture. Danish Bacon sandwich anyone?
Imagine my delight when I saw this little bundle of family joy at Noup Head on Westray. Aren’t they fabulous?
All three are looking well and growing proper feathers. Soon they’ll take to the skies to take their chances with the wind and the waves and the predators that patrol the skies. In the meantime they’re stuck on a tiny ledge surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of a massive seabird colony.
And so am I.