Kittiwake (Black-Legged Kittiwake)
Distribution Britain 252 (+4.2%) Ireland 62 (-20.5%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 490,000 Ireland 50,200
European status: 2,350,000 (23% in Britain and Ireland =3)
British population trend: possibly declining now after increases
How likely are you to record it? 3 squares (0.1%) Ranked 171= 
These delicate cliff-nesting gulls were shot in very large numbers during the 19th century for sport (!) but particularly for the millinery trade. This largely ceased following the 1869 Seabirds Preservation Act and the depleted colonies, mainly the few in England, Wales and easily accessible parts of Scotland began to recover. For 50 years between 1920 and 1969 there was an annual increase of about 3.5%, but it then slowed. Since 1980 or so there have been many reports of declines, although a few increases have been reported, with Shetland colonies (of major importance) halved between 1981 and 1997. Here problems with sand-eel stocks and severe predation by Great Skuas may be responsible. However the return to South-east England in the last three decades is encouraging and there were 3,760 pairs counted in 1985-87: a huge increase on the 80 pairs found in 1969. Even after the current changes these birds are much more common than they were 50 years ago. Overall continued decline likely as Great Skuas increase in what were their stronghold islands.
Heubeck, M., Mellor, R.M. & Harvey, P.V. 1997 Seabird: 19, 12-21.
Heubeck, M. et al. 1999 Bird Study: 46, 48-61.
McGrath, D. & Walsh, P.M. 1996 Irish Birds: 5, 375-380.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead