Nesting Kittiwake numbers have plummeted by 87% on the Orkney and Shetland Islands since 2000

The Kittiwake bird (Rissa tridactyla) has been placed on the world’s most-threatened birds list. The Kittiwake is a small cliff-nesting species of gull names for its distinctive “kitt-i-wake” call. Ireland is home to significant numbers of the Kittiwake species, which breed at colonies around the Irish coast. It has now been considered to be globally threatened, as it was listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Globally, the species is thought to have declined by around 40% since the 1970s, leading to its reclassification as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Nesting Kittiwake numbers have plummeted by 87% on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and by 96% on the Hebridean island of St Kilda since 2000. Bird Watch Ireland outlined that overfishing and ocean changes caused by climate change have affected the availability and quality of the Kittiwake’s key prey species, especially sandeels, during the breeding season. Without sufficient food, Kittiwake colonies in the North Atlantic and Pacific have been struggling to feed their chicks, causing “disastrous” chick survival rates in recent years. Dr Stephen Newton, senior seabird conservation office with BirdWatch Ireland, said that there has been a substantial decline in many Kittiwake colonies in Ireland. “For example, at the key colony on the island of Ireland’s Eye, off Howth in Co Dublin, Kittiwake numbers have declined by 50% over the past 16 years, to just 400 pairs today,” Newton said. “Kittiwakes need to fledge on average about 0.8 young each year to maintain a stable population. This threshold is not being reached at many colonies, and in turn declines in breeding numbers are now being recorded.” Bird Watch Ireland noted that the driving force of poor Kittiwake performance in Ireland is not fully known, but poor food supply is certainly a factor. GPS tracking of several adult Kittiwakes from Dublin showed they were flying to areas close to the Isle of Man and North Wales in their attempts to find food.

Source: The Journal, 13 Dec 17…