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Book Review – The Kittiwake


By John C. Coulson


Isbn – 978-1-4081-0966-3


Published by T & Ad Poyser, October 2011, Hardback 312 pages, Price £50

















Poyser monographs have become an essential buy for many bird watchers as the information inside these books gives a full story on a species and this book continues that great tradition. My interest in the Kittiwake comes from having worked the sea cliffs at St Bees in Cumbria, counting migrating Kittiwake heading through the Solway using the Tyne Gap to get to the North Sea and the inland breeding birds at Newcastle. It is in fact these ‘Tyne’ birds where most of the author spent his 50 years researching these fascinating birds making this one of the longest studies in the world on any species.


North Shields, just in side the mouth of the Tyne and Marsden Rock just south of here was where John carried out most of his work aided by the academics from Durham University where John also studied zoology. John himself also travelled widely to research this bird visiting colonies around the northern hemisphere.  An area which was hard to find the answers was the wintering grounds of a bird which spends so much time at sea. Ringing returns and satellite tagging are making grounds into this information as many adults are lost each winter away from the breeding grounds.


The long debate about sand eel fishing and the effects not just on Kittiwakes but all sea birds are discussed. Moulting, breeding success, limited feeding depths and establishment of young birds into colonise are eye opening. Adaptation to establish new colonies around the northern hemisphere was especially interesting given the movement up river on the Tyne. New sites included gas rigs, piers, a mixture of buildings, boulders and even ground nesting. So far the oldest Kittiwake has been found breeding at the Farne Islands at the tender age of 28 years!


I am sure John would like another 50 years to study the Kittiwake as there is always something new to learn about any species but this book is a great way to broaden your mind on a bird so often found out in that great big ocean and then coming to a coast near you to establish the next generation.

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