Kittiwakes are now in the red

Following the latest revision of the IUCN Red List, the gull is now considered to be threatened with global extinction.

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, adult bird with head tucked into wings sleeping, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, July

Kittiwakes are now listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List © Ben Andrew / RSPB

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The kittiwake has been elevated to an even greater level of conservation concern, after having plummeted in numbers in recent times.

It is estimated that kittiwakes have declined by 40 per cent since the 1970s, probably due to the impacts of climate change and overfishing.

Certain regions have been affected more than others – for example, the population of kittiwakes on St Kilda has declined by an estimated 96 per cent in the past 40 years.

“Some efforts are underway to protect important seabird foraging areas in international waters,” says Laura Bambini, Seabird Recovery Officer at RSPB Scotland, “But there is much more we could do around the UK to protect our internationally important and increasingly threatened populations.”

Aren't Birds Brilliant scheme at Seaford, Sussex. Telescopes & binoculars are available for viewing the Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,  colony. RSPB staff and volunteers are on hand to talk to visitors. July 2007.

An adult kittiwake and its chick on a nest in Seaford, Sussex © Andy Hay / RSPB

Along with other seabirds, kittiwakes rely heavily on sandeels, especially during breeding season. Unfortunately, sandeels are also highly valued by commercial fisheries.

“If our internationally important populations of seabirds are going to cope with climate change,” says Dr Euan Dunn, a marine policy specialist at the RSPB, “then we need to make sure industrial fisheries are not adding to their problems.”

Other species that are found in the UK and are being placed on the IUCN Red List include: Atlantic puffins, European turtle doves and long-tailed ducks.

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