Kittiwake compensation


Hornsea 3 Offshore Wind Farm received planning permission in December 2020. As part of our Development Consent Order, a requirement was included for ecological compensation measures for a vulnerable seabird species whose populations could be affected by wind farms – the Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla).

Our compensation plan focusses on providing artificial nesting structures for kittiwake along the east coast of England. This project is the first of its kind and we are working on new and innovative designs for the artificial nesting structures. Each structure will be purpose-built, bespoke and specific to the landscape characteristics of each location. The structures also present an educational opportunity, allowing researchers to better understand kittiwake.

Developing effective environmental compensation measures is essential to ensure the UK Government’s targets for offshore wind can be realised, to deliver a net zero-carbon future.


Kittiwakes in nest
Food shortages and climate change are the most likely factors contributing to the downward trends in kittiwake numbers that have been recorded since 2000. This decline in overall population has resulted in the species now being listed as vulnerable and at risk of extinction on the UK’s Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern. The move towards a green future will help long-term conservation of kittiwake. In the meantime, the provision of additional nesting structures will enable future generations to raise young in a safe, purpose-built place.

Kittiwake are small, gentle, and feed only on marine fish and small crustaceans. They have short black legs with wings that look like they have been ‘dipped in ink’. Kittiwake spend the winter at sea returning to nest between March and August each year.

Kittiwake are different to other gull species such as herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls which can be found in towns all year round. These larger “urban” gull species are often protective of their offspring in the summer and may dive and swoop on people who are near their nests or chicks. They are often found eating food from open skips and litter bins and may attempt to take food from people in the outdoors. Kittiwake are not known for doing this and are much gentler in nature.

What is needed?

Orsted is required to construct artificial nesting structures for kittiwake on the coastlines of North East England and East Suffolk. Each structure will have approximately 500 nesting spaces to introduce enough new chicks into the population.

The nesting structures will be monitored every year to count the number of birds, occupied nests, and their productivity. In addition, we’ll continue to monitor the existing kittiwake colonies in North East England and East Suffolk and share the results with local groups such as the Lowestoft Kittiwake Partnership.

Why is this important?

These nesting structures are needed to support this important and vulnerable species, and will enable Hornsea 3 to be built and generate clean, green electricity. Hornsea 3 will have an operational capacity of up to 2.85 GW and will contribute significantly to the UK’s net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is crucial in the fight against climate change.

In addition to generating clean energy, Hornsea 3 will also deliver economic benefits to the UK through the creation of green long-term high-skilled jobs and by providing work opportunities for local businesses.


Orsted has conducted a thorough search for locations that would be suitable for the siting of artificial nesting structures for kittiwake. Shortlisted sites have been agreed with Natural England and the RSPB, amongst other consultees.

Individual birds are strongly attracted to areas where other kittiwake are already nesting, so locating artificial nesting structures close to existing colonies is essential to ensure they become occupied.

East Suffolk
Lowestoft and Sizewell are the only locations between Kent and Humberside with thriving kittiwake colonies. Kittiwake normally nest on steep cliffs with narrow ledges. East Anglia doesn’t have these natural nesting spaces, so kittiwake have reverted to colonising urban areas, for example on windowsills and ledges of buildings. Kittiwake breeding for the first time are most likely to find artificial structures that are situated close to these urban areas. They are less likely to find structures in places where there are not already kittiwake. Lowestoft and Sizewell are therefore two of the few places in East Anglia where artificial structures could be colonised quickly. These purpose-built nesting sites would improve breeding conditions for kittiwake, whilst successfully achieving our compensation requirements to unlock the world’s biggest offshore wind farm.

North East England
Orsted’s seabird specialists have been monitoring existing kittiwake colonies for the last two years. In North East England, four locations have been studied: Hartlepool, Seaham, Boulby – Cowbar and Huntcliff (Saltburn). This research will provide information on the number of kittiwake, nests and chicks in each area which helps us to better understand kittiwake behaviour and how the population is evolving.

As part of our site selection process, we are also carefully considering a range of other factors such as proximity to residential areas, visibility of the structures, local heritage and environmental areas and technical feasibility.

Proposals for Lowestoft and Minsmere

Our proposed artificial nesting structures will be located in the sea. Up to two artificial nesting structures will be located approximately 1 km from the shoreline of South Beach, Lowestoft. One artificial nesting structure will be located approximately 1.4 km from the shoreline of the RSPB Minsmere Nature Reserve.
Offshore Kittiwake artificial nesting structure
Concept design of the artificial nesting structures.
Our bespoke structures have been designed by a team of ornithologists, architects and engineers to ensure they are attractive to kittiwake and fit in with the landscape. For example, they have narrow ledges and vertical sides to replicate the cliffs where kittiwake would naturally nest. There are eight sides to give kittiwake different options in case one side is too sunny or too windy. The main structure is submarine grey to blend in with the sky and sea. The yellow base and the light at the top are essential for safe navigation and have been requested by the local port authority, Trinity House and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, alongside other safety measures.
Illustrative photomontage of the artificial nesting structure from the Minsmere sluice
Illustrative photomontage of the artificial nesting structure from the Minsmere sluice.

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