Monday 25th July comments: It’s been a tough time recently for our Kittiwakes as they have faced the brunt of the avian influenza on here but despite this, they have actually had a very productive breeding season. On the cliffsides we had our first fledgling Kittiwakes on 18th July and plenty more have followed. Broods of 2-3 are not uncommon on the island and it continues the trend of recent years, as the species tries to bounce back from catastrophic declines in the last two decades.
Kittiwakes return to the Isle of May in late March and are incubating eggs from late April/early May. They lay on 1-2 eggs (very occasionally three) and both parents will incubate on average for 27 days. Kittiwake chicks are born precocial (the young are relatively mature and have the ability to be mobile from the moment of birth) and are downy and white in colour. This downy plumage will start to be replaced by feathering after just five days after hatching and will take approximately thirty-five days to fledgling stage.
The plumage of youngsters is distinct, as it has a black bill and black ‘W’ across its back and upper wings as you can see from the above photo. Chicks will come back to the nest for several weeks after hatching and will eventually follow the adults at sea where they spend the winter. So there you have it, we now have Kittiwake young on the wing and we hope many more will follow in the next few weeks.