Today’s Solutions: April 20, 2024

When the town of Tromsø, Norway began building more hotels to accommodate flocks of tourists searching for a glimpse of the northern lights, they received some additional unanticipated guests: seabirds. 

Seabirds, such as the local kittiwake, have struggled to survive in their natural sea cliff habitats and instead turned to new construction projects as nesting sites. Now, Tone Kristin Reiertsen, a seabird ecologist, and her team are building “bird hotels” so these species can safely nest in urban areas. 

The region’s kittiwake population has dropped by 74 percent since 1980 and this innovative plan could be the area’s last chance to save these birds. Climate change, habitat loss, and overfishing have all contributed to the global decline of seabird populations. 

It isn’t completely clear why the kittiwake is migrating to urban areas. Some theories include limited food supply in natural habitats due to warming seas and potential protection from predators. More than 100 kittiwake couples raised their young in Tromsø’s downtown last year including in schools and local bars.

The first official “kittiwake hotel” is in an abandoned building near one of the town’s harbors. The building doesn’t look like much, but it has plenty of wide concrete ledges to support nesting and is complete with electronic speakers that play kittiwake songs to lure in potential tenants. 

The hotel doesn’t solve the environmental crisis at the root of the issue, but it does offer a safe place for these birds as they choose to move inland and a way for them to more peacefully coexist with the town’s residents.

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