The name kittiwake, which describes two related species of seabird that are common along the shores of Europe and North America, comes from its distinctively shrill call that sounds like, “kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake!” The coastal breeding birds are reliant on a steady diet of small fish and crustaceans, but overfishing and rising water temperatures due to climate change have contributed to shrinking colonies. As a result, scientists are rushing to research and monitor the remaining populations.
Kittiwakes typically nest on steep sea cliffs, while at least one colony has adapted to an unusual inland location in Newcastle, bedding down on the corners of buildings and under the Tyne Bridge. The RSPB estimates a global drop in the birds by more than 40% since 1970. Some of the most alarming decreases have been seen in the U.K., particularly in the northern archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland, where numbers have declined by 87% since 2000. St. Kilda, an island in Scotland’s Western Isles, has lost a staggering 96% of the breeding population.
With a little help from unique collaborators—wind farm maker Ørsted and marine engineer Red7Marine—the avians can now make use of three new structures installed just off of England’s East Coast. These installations, placed along one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe, provide shelter for the seabirds while simultaneously producing clean and renewable electricity.
Off the shores of South Beach, Lowestoft, and the Minsmere Nature Reserve, Suffolk, each of the artificial nesting structures provide hundreds of small ledges designed to mimic the birds’ steep cliff dwellings. Every year, a team will monitor how many nests are occupied and how productively the kittiwakes are able to breed. The studies will be shared with local wildlife trusts like the Lowestoft Kittiwake Partnership, which just opened a series of bird hotels. (via designboom)
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