Birds, much like any other species, are more highly populated around clean rivers. The healthy river ecosystems of the Tyne allow a wide variety of birds to thrive in the catchment. Examples of the bird species that might be seen include:
The osprey is a large raptor reaching more than 60cm in length and can have a wingspan exceeding 180cm. This type of bird has a diet consisting mostly of fish and therefore the Tyne is a good area for it as long as its food source is high. Ospreys nest around Kielder reservoir between March and September, at which time they start their long migration to overwinter in Africa.
Another species of bird living around the Tyne is the kingfisher. These birds often nest and lay their eggs in riverbanks. Like ospreys, the kingfisher’s diet includes a lot of fish. These birds have specially adapted eyes so that they can see underwater when diving for food. They have large heads and long bills, are blue and orange and are the most brightly coloured bird in Britain. Because of their diet and choice of nesting area, the food and habitat in the area must be at a high standard.
The kittiwake is a species of gull that nests in coastal areas. Their diet consists of marine life, particularly fish. These birds live at the mouth of the Tyne and nest in Newcastle/Gateshead; it is the furthest inland nesting population of kittiwakes in Britain. As with other species, the water quality of the Tyne directly affects their diet. Kittiwakes live in large colonies, which demand a lot of food.
Dippers are small, brown and white birds. There is an abundance of these birds residing in the Tyne catchment. These birds enjoy feeding on larvae that live in the stony beds of fast flowing streams. They are a good indicator of water quality as they are not often seen in murky water.
Dippers nest along riverbanks or in nests on ledges or bridges. They often take to nesting boxes positioned above flowing water. Nests must be evenly spaced along the river as these birds are very territorial. Their nesting season normally begins in late March or early April; nesting pairs attempt to raise two broods.
The swallow is a distinctive blue bird with a long, forked tail and curved, pointed wings. These species live in close association with humans and build their nests amongst man-made structures. Swallows preferred habitat is open countryside, particularly near water. Their diet is made up largely by insects, either by catching them in the open air, or feeding on water surfaces, walls or plants nearby.
House martins are very similar to swallows in a lot of ways. They are of similar size and are blue and white. They feed on either airborne insects, or insects on or around water surfaces. The House Martin’s choice of habitat is much more versatile than that of the swallow; their preferred habitat however is also in open countryside near water.
Sand martins are smaller in size than the swallow and the house martin. They are brown and white. Their diet consists of small, mostly water-based insects such as gnats. They nest in small tunnels a few inches into sand or gravel, with the nest itself being made from straw or feathers; they also often nest in riverbanks along the Tyne in summer.
The swallow and martin families of birds are commonly seen catching flying invertebrates over the Tyne rivers in the summer, which indicates an abundance of invertebrate life.