Friday 2 March 2018

A kittiwake's story ...... plastic, climate change and industrial over fishing

They usually nest on cliffs.
I got home this week to find that Hamza (Wildlife photographer and cameraman) had rescued an exhausted black-legged kittiwake. It was living in his bathroom eating fish, projectile dumping and swimming in the bath.   For more detail on kittiwakes see:-  Kittiwakes - Scottish Seabird Centre

An oceanic species kittiwakes were once the most numerous gull species in the world but are now on the list of breeding British birds facing extinction for three main reasons; plastic pollution, climate change and industrial over fishing.

Plastic waste has been found in large quantities at nest sites and as micro-plastic in the gut; all of these kill chicks.

Warming seas as a result of climate change have resulted in fluctuating sand eel populations ( the bird's main source of dietary energy) during the breeding season. Warmer seas in Spring mean earlier planton growth which results in earlier peak sand eel populations when the kittiwake's food demand is greatest. Peak sand eel numbers no longer seem to be synchronised with peak kittiwake demand.

Then there is the farmed salmon  and bacon in your diet. Industrial fishing of sand eels for animal feed ( they are high in protein and energy) has lead to starvation and breeding failure in seabird colonies around Scotland.

For a detailed and thoroughly scientific summary of kittiwake population change see:

"Storm" -  Hamza's kittiwake 

Alisdair Maclachlan a Kilchoan creel fisherman picked up an exhausted immature kittiwake on the deck of his boat and passed it to Hamza for resuscitation and recovery. The bird was emaciated and unable to flap it's wings when it was picked up.

 However, after two weeks in the bathroom with copious supplies of fish, warmth and a bath to swim in it recovered and has been subsequently released.

It is just possible that this bird could have wintered on the Eastern seaboard of the United States where populations of British bred immature kittiwakes have been observed. The three thousand mile journey in February back to Scotland would have been exhausting.

The video: Hamza has put together a 2 minute video covering the two week recovery period you can see it on his Facebook pages at:-

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