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Medway count reveals high numbers for Kent

Last modified: 08 July 2008

Adult breeding-plumaged black-headed gull

RSPB South East is delighted to announce significant birds counts around North Kent.

Europe's largest wildlife conservation charity, which owns or manages seven reserves on the North Kent coast, has reported thousands of breeding birds on Medway islands.

The count includes 5,500 pairs of black-headed gulls on Burntwick Island alone, indicating the Medway estuary to have one of the UK's largest black-headed gull colonies.

'These counts show just how important an area for wild birds the Medway really is'

Also recorded are 480 pairs of sandwich terns, a startlingly white bird with a 'punk' hair-do and a long black bill. Early indications suggest this is the South East's biggest colony.

Gordon Allison, RSPB North Kent Marshes Warden, said: 'In an era of climate change and mass development, it's great to have some good news for wildlife. These counts show just how important an area for wild birds the Medway really is. Not only is it internationally important for wintering birds, it is also of national importance for nesting sea-birds.

'Countless people will take pleasure from the sight of these birds, but as heartening as this is we can't get complacent. Conservation groups like us are working hard to protect and enhance North Kent's habitats, but there is still a lot to do. Rising sea levels could result in loss of saltmarsh habitat, with a corresponding decline in breeding seabird populations.'

Also in the count are 144 pairs of Mediterranean gulls, a red-beaked seabird that nests amongst commoner black-headed gulls, and is currently amber listed as a species of conservation concern. This count is likely to make-up around half of the UK's current population.

Common terns, buoyant, silver-white water birds sometimes known as sea-swallows, are also on the up. A total of 143 pairs were recorded on Burntwick Island, increasing from 127 in 2007.

The little tern, which is again breeding in the Medway for the first time since 2005, also made the tally with 16 pairs recorded.

  • For more information about RSPB North Kent Marshes, call 01273 775333 or visit

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