Black-legged Kittiwake

Rissa tridactyla

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

BLKI

Code 6

RISTRI

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Black-legged Kittiwake is a medium-sized seabird and a member of the gull family. Its diet consists mostly of fish, which are hunted and dived for near the surface of the ocean. This species has a large breeding range of more than one million square kilometers and breeds on seaside cliffs in the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans south to Spain, Newfoundland, British Columbia, and eastern Russia. It winters in coastal and pelagic waters near its breeding grounds and south to eastern Asia, western Mexico, Florida, and western Africa. It has a large estimated population of 17,000,000-18,000,000 individuals and a conservation rating of Least Concern.

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BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Black-legged Kittiwake: This is a medium-sized white gull with pale gray back and upperwings and black wing tips. The bill is yellow and the legs and feet are black. It has a swift, graceful flight, alternating several rapid shallow wing beats with a glide. Hovers over water before diving for prey at the surface. It feeds on marine invertebrates, plankton and fish. The sexes look very similar.

 

Range and Habitat

Black-legged Kittiwake: Breeds in northern Pacific and Arctic Oceans and in Atlantic south to Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Spends winters from edge of sea ice southward, rarely to Gulf of Mexico or Baja, California; also in Eurasia. Nests on ledges of offshore islands, sea stacks, or inaccessible areas on coastal mainland.

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Black-legged Kittiwake SONGS AND CALLS

Black-legged Kittiwake P1

Flight call is a nasal "kyah".

Black-legged Kittiwake P2

"Kittiwake" and other calls from a breeding colony.

Similar Sounding


Voice Text

"Kittiwake"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • They are the most numerous species of gull in the world and most adapted to nesting on vertical rocky sea-cliffs. Most young gulls flee from the nest if disturbed, but the young of this species stay put no matter how close a human gets-leaving a nest on a high ledge could result in a fatal plunge to the rocks below.
  • A group of kittiwakes are collectively known as a "flock" of kittiwakes.
  • The Black-legged Kittiwake is the only gull that dives and swims underwater to capture food. The name "kittiwake" is derived from the bird's peculiar cry, a shrill "kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake".
  • They are not commonly seen from shore, and generally spend the entire winter on the open ocean. They occasionally come inshore and even inland as a result of storms at sea. On 20 October 1968 large numbers moved into Halifax Harbor just ahead of hurricane "Gladys.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

RANGE MAP HAWAII

About this Hawaii Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across the Hawaiian island.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Irina Rud-Volga

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BIRDS AND BIRDING

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PelagicX
The pelagic is a type of bird whose habitat is on the open ocean rather than in a coastal region or on inland bodies of water (lakes, rivers). An example of a pelagic bird is the blacklegged kittiwake.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X