Wildlife Wednesdays: Hotels for Arctic Birds | weatherology°
By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Apr 27th 2020

Wildlife Wednesdays: Hotels for Arctic Birds

Black-legged kittiwakes are a type of bird from the gull family, and, like most others, are being threatened by a changing climate. Kittiwakes like to have nests in cliffs over the ocean and rarely move inland across Norway from March through September. Recently, that has changed due to warmer oceans; this has increased the number of storms. This and other changes have affected breeding and chick production in their normal habitat. Instead, the birds have been setting up nests in places such as office buildings and shopping centers inland in a town called Tromso, and other towns along Norway's coasts. Bad news about these birds is that they are loud with chirping and leave behind a great mess. 

Tone Kristin Reiertsen, a seabird ecologist with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in Tromso, mentions that "there is something going on in the birds' cliffs that make them struggle to raise chicks." She further mentions that "this unusual urban invasion may be the last chance for the region's kittiwakes, whose numbers along the coast of Norway have plunged by three-quarters since the 1980s."

The kittiwakes are rated vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, and scientists project that kittiwakes could become extinct in Norway within four decades if nothing is done to help these little birds. As mentioned, the leading problem for the decrease in these birds are warming oceans. Sea surface temps off Norway's northern coast has warmed nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1980s! This may be driving the birds' source of food out of reach. Weather during breeding season has become worse as well, "making it very hard for the birds to raise chicks because they cannot enter the cliff to feed them," says Reiertsen.

The good news is that a group of colleges of Reiertsen and herself are building little boutique hotels along Norway's coast for these birds, so they can raise their families without being a bother to the town's populations and tourists that come to visit. These hotels are about the size of a garage, with ledges for nesting, materials for nest building, and speakers to lure in birds. She hopes to get kittiwake hotels implemented on more buildings across the towns in the future. "I hope we will find solutions so that kittiwakes and humans can coexist nicely, so we can keep this species in our nature," Reiertsen says. 

Bird
Black-legged kittiwakes are a type of bird from the gull family.
Norway
The birds have been setting up nests in places such as office buildings and shopping centers inland, due to a warming ocean and worsening weather.
Bird
Boutique hotels are being built so they can raise their families without being a bother to the town's populations and tourists that come to visit.