Kittiwake

see- gull!

The pretty gull

Following my posts about my work this year, I give you the Kittiwake. These gulls are quite dainty compared to the bog standard Herring Gull that most people are used to. They are smaller with more delicate beaks and their plumage is smarter with the black wing tips being neat, black triangles.

These gulls are regular breeders on the cliffs on Skomer and are yet another bird that likes to nest in the same spot each year. This means that I can survey them in much the same way as I do Razorbill and Guillemot. I make 5 visits throughout the breeding season, firstly mapping nesting attempts on photos of the cliffs. I then follow these pairs as they build up their nests, lay eggs, incubate and hopefully fledge their hatchlings!

This year is unfortunately a very bad year for Kittiwake on Skomer. There are significantly fewer nests than in the last few years and many of these have few or no eggs in them (a pair normally lays three eggs and can often get all three chicks to fledging in a good year). This is mostly due to a few bouts of windy and wet weather which has disrupted their nest building but is also due to a fair amount of predation. But on top of this, large chicks are often easy prey for our resident Peregrine Falcons and before this can happen the Crows and Jackdaws have taken a heavy toll on the Kittiwake eggs. And as always, beside all this there is the fear that fish stocks are dwindling and without them these birds will do very badly, depending on small fish close to the surface to catch with their shallow diving hunting method.

Interestingly, Kittiwakes are one bird that Skomer has in large numbers whereas Skokholm (the closely neighbouring island) has none despite very similar habitat and other species present. One of the few instances where I can’t argue against Skomer being the better place to go for an up close seabird experience…

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2 Comments

  1. A complicated balance of prey versus predator interactions, right there for sure. Damn, lovely birds Kittiwakes, I love to hear their calls. Slowly catching up on all things blogging hence my late reply.

    Reply
  1. Another Season | YatesPhotographic

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