Kittiwake chicks shot and killed in harbour

Local Robbie Harrison discovers juvenile Kittiwakes that have been shot near their nesting place. pic Richard Ponter 153010f
Local Robbie Harrison discovers juvenile Kittiwakes that have been shot near their nesting place. pic Richard Ponter 153010f

An investigation is underway after eight kittiwakes were found shot dead in Scarborough.

The birds were found on Thursday and Friday last week near Scarborough’s lighthouse by local fisherman Robbie Harrison.

All the birds were chicks and all appeared to have been killed in the same way - shot in the head at point blank range by an air rifle.

Mr Harrison told The Scarborough News that he had found the dead birds on Thursday, after noticing some adults acting strangely.

He said: “I went over and could see the birds lying in the nests.

“There was blood around the nests and it was obvious they had been shot in the head.
“Someone has just stood above them and done it.

“They have just targeted the chicks for some reason, the adults have all been left alone.

“It’s sickening to be honest, I don’t know why anyone would do it.

“I hope they catch them.”

The following day Mr Harrison found another dead chick, again having been shot through the head.

North Yorkshire Police said enquiries are ongoing into the deaths. A spokesman said: “Kittiwakes are a protected species and police are very keen to find out who is responsible for these attacks.”

While most black-headed gulls are now sporting the chocolate brown hoods of their breeding plumage, kittiwakes have pure white rounded heads, dark eyes and small yellow beaks.

Kittiwake breeding colonies break up in July with the majority moving into the north Atlantic for the winter, joining many thousands of others that have bred elsewhere

Scarborough RSPCA inspector Geoff Edmond was called in to take the birds away and he told The Scarborough News that he hoped someone would be able to provide information as to who the culprit was.

He said: “This is not some random killing, this was deliberate attempt to kill the kittiwake chicks.

“It’s happened on at least two occasions that we know of and it is really quite disturbing.

“Hopefully whoever did this can be caught and someone reading this might be able to help.”

Anyone with information on the killings is asked to call the police’s non-emergency number 101.

Kittiwakes are protected under law and it is an offence to harm one of the birds or to interfere with a nest,

In April Scarborough Council approved a £15,000 plan to combat issues with sea birds.

This inclusded strong sacks for rubbish bags to be placed inside to make them immune to prying beaks and putting warnings about feeding gulls on the inside of fish and chip cartons.

A study into the feasibility of displacing urban nesting kittiwakes back to the town’s Castle Headland in conjunction with Natural England and the RSPB is currently being under taken.

This would be done by placing fine netting and other deterrents on the buildings in the town where they are nesting designed to stop them being able to land.

Herring gulls were identified as the main problem in the borough due to their noise and droppings, as well as the bird’s habit of pestering people for their food.

Kittiwakes, though noisy, are not known for scavenging food from humans and have not been blamed for any attacks on people in the UK.