Scarborough in North Yorkshire

In the heart of the seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire, Kittiwakes are choosing to use town buildings to host their nests, rather than nearby cliffs”

Not everyone is keen to host a colony of seabirds, and such gatherings can to many appear messy and noisy. Kittiwakes are also mistaken for other gulls that forage nearby such as the Herring and Greater/Lesser Black backed Gull. In truth Kittiwakes feed along our coasts far out at sea; regularly enjoying tasty Sand Eels and don’t forage in our town and cities. 

A pair of Kittiwakes building their nest in Scarbrough town Centre on anti-bird spikes.

Kittiwakes are usually a peaceful, gentle species of Gull, unless threatened or competing for the best location to build their nests, to help bring life to the next generation. 

Grand Hotel

The largest such colony in Scarborough can be found during the spring and summer months on the Grand Hotel.
» Nick Addey a researcher that collects nesting data every year for the Scorborough colonies, recorded Five hundred fifty-six occupied nests present during the summer of 2023.

The Grand Hotel in Scarbrough

Once the largest brick building in Europe back when it was built in 1863; the Grand Hotel remains an important feature in Scarborough town, towering against the coastline.  It survived extensive bombing during World War 2 but in truth this once grand hotel has seen better days and now serves as a budget hotel. There are clear signs the building would benefit from some restoration work.

The colony of Kittiwakes staying at the Grand Hotel in Scarborough during the summer, brings an element of surprise and wonder with an opportunity
to experience nesting seabirds up close”.

This is a perfect location to peacefully observe the colony without disturbing them, as pairs are nesting so high up out of the way. They also look so elegant and artistic on this vintage building, and at times it looks like the design was built entirely for them to share this hotel on the Scarbrough coastline.

When considering the large size of the colony present on the Grand Hotel and the Kittiwakes » red-listed conservation status, it definitely seems appropriate to appoint this building with a green flag as a building where they should now be welcome to nest on. This colony needs to be protected.  Efforts to displace such a colony of over five hundred pairs would raise the obvious question? Where would the Kittiwakes nest instead? 

Spa Bridge

The newly formed North Yorkshire County Council are continuing to fund initiatives including street cleansing and grant funding to assist residents and businesses with the costs of gull-proofing material.   Over 30K was spent installing anti-bird gel after concerns over excrement damaging the Grade II-listed Spa Bridge from nesting Kittiwakes.

The Spa Bridge in Scarobrough, North Yorkshire

The Spa Bridge is on the outskirts of the town and any nesting birds are very close to the beach.  There would be some expenditure by the local authorities to clean up under the bridge and this is perhaps why they have opted to install anti-bird deterrents recently. It costs thousands to install the gel, and this will need to be maintained as years go by. How effective is the gel?  Is this a good use of public funds?

Kittiwake nests cleared from a landmark bridge in Scarborough,
threatening homelessness to hundreds of the endangered sea birds”.

“What does the future hold for the Spa Bridge Kittiwake Colony?  Despite the installation of the anti-bird gel on the Spa Bridge, 189 pairs of Kittiwakes were noted as nesting during 2023, compared to up to 270 pairs previously.  If more pairs are displaced where they will they then choose to nest? And where did the pairs that were displaced during the 2023 nest instead?  Will any displaced pairs simply choose to nest on other buildings deeper into the town”.

Again due to the size of the colony, which was climbing towards 300 pairs at a time where coastal populations are shrinking globally, the Spa Bridge site should be assigned a Green Flag as a location they are welcome to nest every year. This should be a protected colony. This is also another great location to observe and to carry out research at a distance. The colony on the Spa Bridge should be celebrated and promoted as an opportunity for education and wildlife tourism.

There have been calls to construct an artificial structure like the » Saltmeadows Tower that has been present on Tyneside since the millennium, should larger numbers of Kittiwakes in the near future be displaced from the Spa Bridge.

Brunswick Shopping Centre

Elsewhere in Scarborough Town a further 360 pairs were found nesting during the 2023 breeding season, which represents about a third of the urban population in Scarborough. Anti-bird spikes that look fresh from Narnia, rise from the upper reaches of the Brunswick Shopping Centre where more pairs of Kittiwakes have adopted an urban building to build their nests. 

Kittiwakes nesting amongst anti-bird spikes on the Brunswick Shopping Centre in Scarborough

Many of these unfriendly spikes, look dangerous to birds.  Like other anti-bird deterrents, that have been used in this popular coastal town, these fail to discourage or prevent birds from nesting. Some pairs actually use the spikes as a foundation to build their nest.  Sadly, some are injured by such spikes during the task, and as the breeding season evolves.

Efforts to deter Kittiwakes from nesting in Scarborough Town are failing.  Some may say the Kittiwakes will simply move back to the coastal cliffs”.

Evidence and experience have shown conservationists, that by using a policy of attempting to re-locate/discourage Kittiwakes nesting with anti-bird deterrents repeatedly fails but can cause harm to birds and at times fatally. Instead, a more informed approach could be adopted, such as accepting the need to protect the local colonies of breeding Kittiwakes. By educating the local residents about the Conservation status of Kittiwakes and celebrating the unique opportunities to experience seabird colonies up close with local tourists, benefits can be shared.

Can we help the Scarborough Kittiwakes?”

Instead of installing nasty looking spikes on the Brunswick Shopping Centre, a wall of ledges could be created, similar to what has happened down in Lowestoft in Suffolk.

Waterstones in Scarborough town

Further buildings deeper into the town centre, such as the local Waterstones have also been specially selected by the Kittiwakes.

Kittiwakes choosing to only nest on this building
where anti-bird spikes are present

Surely such as a building that houses a well read store such as a Waterstones would be perfect for families of seabirds to raise their young and help educate their visitors. Where better to explore and enjoy the story of the Scarborough Kittiwakes.

A pair of Kittiwakes growing a comfy nest in Scarbrough town centre. 

There are two voices however; those for and against accepting the Kittiwakes choice to build their nests in Scarborough town.  This website is a voice to help support efforts to conserve their right to nest to sustain population numbers at a time where coastal colonies are struggling. 

Coastal Colony

A short walk along the beach, past the fair rides and amusements and flocks of tourists, enjoying their day out, there were 1633 occupied nests during 2023, compared to 1897 in 2022.  Avian Flu continues to cause waves of losses during 2023, and such a fall in the local coastal breeding population may have been due to this.