Black-legged kittiwake

The black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) is a seabird species in the gull family Laridae.

This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Larus tridactylus.[2] The English name is derived from its call, a shrill 'kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake'.[3] The genus name Rissa is from the Icelandic name Rita for this bird, and the specific tridactyla is from Ancient Greek tridaktulos, "three-toed", from tri-, "three-" and daktulos, "toe".[4]

In North America, this species is known as the black-legged kittiwake to differentiate it from the red-legged kittiwake, but in Europe, where it is the only member of the genus, it is often known just as kittiwake.

Calls, recorded on Skomer


The adult is 37–41 cm (15–16 in) in length with a wingspan of 91–105 cm (36–41 in) and a body mass of 305–525 g (10.8–18.5 oz).[5] It has a white head and body, grey back, grey wings tipped solid black, black legs and a yellow bill. Occasional individuals have pinky-grey to reddish legs, inviting confusion with red-legged kittiwake. In winter, this species acquires a dark grey smudge behind the eye and a grey hind-neck collar.

Standard measurements[6][7]
length 410–460 mm (16–18 in)
weight 400 g (14 oz)
wingspan 910 mm (36 in)
wing 295–322 mm (11.6–12.7 in)
tail 124–136 mm (4.9–5.4 in)
culmen 33–39 mm (1.3–1.5 in)
tarsus 32–36 mm (1.3–1.4 in)


Rissa tridactyla MWNH 0344
Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

It is a coastal breeding bird around the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans, found most commonly in North America and Europe. It breeds in large colonies on cliffs and is very noisy on the breeding ground. Cliff nesting for gulls occurs only in the Rissa species, and the kittiwake is capable of utilizing the very sheerest of vertical cliffs, as is evident in their nesting sites on Staple Island in the outer Farne Islands. One to two buff spotted eggs are laid in the nest lined with moss or seaweed. The downy young of kittiwakes are white, since they have no need of camouflage from predators, and do not wander from the nest like Larus gulls for obvious safety reasons.

At fledging, the juveniles differ from the adults in having a black 'W' band across the length of the wings and whiter secondary and primary feathers behind the black 'W', a black hind-neck collar and a black terminal band on the tail. The old fisherman's name of "tarrock" for juvenile kittiwakes is still occasionally used.


They are fish feeders, and are more pelagic than Larus gulls outside the breeding season. They do not scavenge at landfill like some other gull species.


There are two races of black-legged kittiwake:

  • R. t. tridactyla(Linnaeus, 1758): nominate, found in the North Atlantic Ocean, is unique among the Laridae in having only a very small or even no hind toe.
  • R. t. pollicaris(Ridgway, 1884): found in the north Pacific Ocean, has a normally developed hind toe (as the name pollex, meaning thumb, suggests).



In flight, Heligoland, Germany

Black-legged Kittiwake RWD2

In Seward, Alaska

Rissa tridactyla standing
Black-legged Kittiwake

Colony at Svalbard


Chased by a parasitic jaeger at Svalbard


At the Norwegian bird-island Runde


At Runde

Black-legged Kittiwake and Chick

On nest with chick


Adult and chicks

Rissa tridactyla-pjt

Youth (Iceland)

Black-legged Kittiwake from the Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland

ID composite

Capfagnet 21

Capture of individuals for tagging


  1. ^ BirdLife International. 2018. Rissa tridactyla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22694497A132556442. Downloaded on 01 January 2019.
  2. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata (in Latin). Holmiae [Stockholm]: (Laurentii Salvii). p. 136. L, albicans dorso canescente, rectricibus excepto extimo nigris, pedibus tridaclylis.
  3. ^ "Kittiwake". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 336, 390. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ "Black-legged kittiwake". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  6. ^ Godfrey, W. Earl (1966). The Birds of Canada. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. p. 186.
  7. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-679-45122-8.

External links

Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve

Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve is a wildlife reserve located on an island off the northeastern tip of Bay de Verde Peninsula (part of the Avalon Peninsula) of Newfoundland.

Baccalieu Island is the largest seabird island in Newfoundland and supports the greatest diversity of breeding seabirds in Eastern North America. The island supports the largest known colony of Leach's storm petrel in the world, approximately 40% of the global population and about 70% of the western Atlantic population of this species. It is a nesting area for 11 breeding species:

Atlantic puffin (45,000 pairs - approximately 12% of the eastern North America population) at Puffin Island;

Black-legged kittiwake (13,000 - approximately 5 to 7% of the western Atlantic breeding population); and

Northern gannet (677 pairs - approximately 1.5% of the North American population).

Northern fulmar

Black guillemot

Common murre

Thick-billed murre


Herring gull

Great black-backed gullThe island also includes one of the largest winter populations of eider in Newfoundland.

Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs is a nature reserve, run by the RSPB, at Bempton in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.

It is best known for its breeding seabirds, including northern gannet, Atlantic puffin, razorbill, common guillemot, black-legged kittiwake and fulmar.

There is a visitor centre.


Bulbjerg is a limestone cliff in northern Jutland, Denmark, facing Skagerrak. It is the only rock formation in Jutland, the only bird cliff on the Danish mainland, and as such the only breeding place of the black-legged kittiwake on the Danish mainland. Bulbjerg lies in the traditional district of Hanherred, close to Thy.

Cambridge Point

Cambridge Point is an uninhabited headland on Coburg Island in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada. It is located off Marina Peninsula.


Drangey or Drang Isle is an island in the Skagafjörður fjord in northern Iceland. It is the remnant of a 700,000‑year‑old volcano, mostly made of volcanic palagonite tuff, forming a massive rock fortress.The island was first mentioned in the Icelandic classic Grettis saga as being the refuge of the outlaw Grettir, who spent his last years there with his brother Illugi and his slave Glaumur. He fled there with his two companions when enemies were seeking his life because of its high, impervious cliffs. It is described as having a flock of 80 sheep, and many birds nesting on the cliffs. In late autumn of 1031, Grettir was assassinated where he lay virtually dying in his shed on the island. Þorbjörn Öngull and his men were the perpetrators.

An old legend says that two night-prowling giants, a man and a woman, were traversing the fjord with their cow when they were surprised by the bright rays of daybreak. As a result of exposure to daylight, all three were turned into stone. Drangey represents the cow and Kerling (supposedly the female giant, the name means "Old Hag") is to the south of it. Karl (the male giant) was to the north of the island, but he disappeared long ago.

The bird life in Drangey is varied and lively, but the most common are diving birds: the guillemot, auk and puffin. The guillemot nests in the cliffs, while the auk mostly prefers deep cracks underneath the cliffs. The puffin, on the other hand, digs holes in the edge of the cliffs. In addition to these species, the black-legged kittiwake and fulmar nest in the cliffs and the raven and falcon also have their sanctuaries there.

Drangey has for ages been a harbinger of spring for the local residents. Every spring, they visited the island to collect both eggs and birds. They used ropes to climb down the fowling cliffs for the eggs, but the birds were caught using rafts placed on the sea underneath the cliffs. These rafts were covered with bird snares made of horsehair. The bird catchers mostly found shelter in sheds on the beach on the southernmost tip of the island. From this point, they also used to go fishing in their boats. At peak seasonal periods, there were as many as 200 men engaged in fowling and the catch was in excess of 200,000 birds when the yield was best. The use of snares was discontinued in 1966.

Godrevy Head to St Agnes

Godrevy Head to St Agnes is a coastal Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in north Cornwall, England, UK, noted for both its biological and geological characteristics. A number of rare and scarce plant species can be found on the site, along with many breeding seabirds.


Ichthyaetus is a genus of gulls. The genus name is from Ancient Greek ikhthus, "fish", and aetos, "eagle". They were previously included in the genus Larus.


The kittiwakes (genus Rissa) are two closely related seabird species in the gull family Laridae, the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris). The epithets "black-legged" and "red-legged" are used to distinguish the two species in North America, but in Europe, where Rissa brevirostris is not found, the black-legged kittiwake is often known simply as kittiwake, or more colloquially in some areas as tickleass or tickleace. The name is derived from its call, a shrill 'kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake'. The genus name Rissa is from the Icelandic name Rita for the black-legged kittiwake.

List of birds of the Faroe Islands

In the Faroe Islands there are currently about 110 different species of birds although, including vagrants. During the last 150 years, over 260 species have been recorded. There are about 40 common breeding birds, including the seabirds fulmar (600,000 pairs), puffin (550,000 pairs), storm petrel (250,000 pairs), black-legged kittiwake (230,000 pairs), guillemot (175,000 pairs), Manx shearwater (25,000 pairs).

Symbolically, the most important of the birds of the Faroe Islands is the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus). Their annual arrival on about 12 March is celebrated by the Faroese people as the start of spring. For this reason, the tjaldur (pronounced [ˈtʃaldʊɹ]), is recognised as the national bird of the Faroes. However, in numbers, the avifauna is dominated by an estimated two million pairs of breeding seabirds of several species. There are also some resident landbirds and many regular visitors, both passage migrants and breeders, as well as several species recorded occasionally as vagrants, mainly from Europe. The Faroese postal system, the Postverk Føroya, prints stamps portraying Faroe birds. See external links.


The Lóndrangar are a pair of rock pinnacles in Iceland. They are volcanic plugs of basalt, that have been hewn out from softer surrounding rock by erosion. At 75 and 61 m tall, they are a singular sight, rising above and outside the ocean front due east across from Malarrif and some 10 km from Hellnar, on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes peninsula. History has it that the taller of the cliffs was ascended in 1735, while the smaller one was not climbed until 1938.The Lóndrangar are remnants from a bigger crater which has mostly eroded away. It is reckoned that the rock in the slopes of nearby Svalþúfa is an isolated part of the original rim around the crater itself, with the rest eroded away by the sea. There are many bird nest s in the steep slopes of the twin towers and birds which can be observed are black-legged kittiwake, common murre, puffin and northern fulmar. At one time the coastal area around Lóndrangar, Drangsvogur, was used for the landing of fishing vessels with up to 12 fishing boats making use of it as a natural harbor.

Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area

Nirjutiqavvik National Wildlife Area is a National Wildlife Area on Coburg Island within Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada. It is located in Baffin Bay's Lady Ann Strait between Ellesmere Island, to the north, and Devon Island to the south. The NWA includes Coburg Island and its surrounding marine area.

It was established in 1995. Of its 1,650 km2 (640 sq mi) in overall size, 1,283 km2 (495 sq mi) are a marine area with marine and intertidal components.The NWA is one of the most important seabird nesting areas in the Canadian Arctic for black guillemot, black-legged kittiwake, northern fulmar, and thick-billed murre. It is also an important area for polar bears, walruses, ringed seals and bearded seals. beluga and narwhal whales migrate this area.


Portknockie (Scottish Gaelic: Port Chnocaidh, the hilly port) is a coastal village on the Moray Firth within Moray, Scotland.

The village's name is written as Portknockies in the Old Parish Registers. This would suggest that the port's name referred to not one, but two rocky hills at the hythe - the Port Hill and the Greencastle. Nearby towns include Buckie, Findochty and Cullen.

The village was founded in 1677 and it became a significant herring fishing port during the nineteenth century, although today only a handful of commercial inshore boats remain.

The town was on the railway network, until Portknockie station closed in 1968.

A popular site in Portknockie is Bow Fiddle Rock, a large rock about 50 feet high just off the coast. The quartzite structure has a large sea arch, which somewhat resembles the bow of a fiddle, making it an example of a natural arch.

Small numbers of seabirds nest on the coastal cliffs. These include fulmar, black-legged kittiwake, common gull, razorbill and shag. Additionally common eider can be seen in and around the harbour and coves during the summer months.

Red-legged kittiwake

The red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris) is a seabird species in the gull family Laridae. It breeds in the Pribilof Islands, Bogoslof Island and Buldir Island in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska, and the Commander Islands, Russia and spends the winter at sea.

Runde Ramsar Site

The Runde Ramsar Site is a Ramsar Convention area consisting of five previously approved protected areas in the municipalities of Herøy and Ulstein in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. The area was established in 2013.The five protected areas consist of four bird sanctuaries and one nature reserve, all of which are connected to the bird cliff island of Runde.

Four of the areas lie on the island of Runde in the municipality of Herøy: the Goksøyr Mires Nature Reserve, established in 1996, and the Runde West Side Bird Sanctuary, Runde North Side Bird Sanctuary, and Hellestien-Blåfjellet-Kløfjellet-Geita Bird Sanctuary. The fifth area, the Grasøyane Bird Sanctuary, lies in the municipality of Ulstein and encompasses the Grasøya island group with the islands of Grasøya and Skjærvøya and the surrounding skerries and sea. The four bird sanctuaries were all established in 1981.

Runde is the southernmost and third-largest of Norway's bird cliffs, with over 120,000 nesting seabirds. The most important species are the Atlantic puffin and black-legged kittiwake. There were 40,000 pairs of nesting kittiwakes in 2005 and 17,000 in 2010, and 100,000 pairs of puffins in 2005 and 81,000 in 2010.Species such as the razorbill, common murre, and European shag are in decline, whereas species such as the northern gannet and great skua have recently become established. Many species of birds visit the islands while migration, and a total of 230 species have been recorded here.

Seven Presidents Park

Seven Presidents Park is an oceanfront park in the city of Long Branch, New Jersey, USA, maintained by the Monmouth County Park System. It is named after U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, and Woodrow Wilson, all of whom spent time in the area's resorts. President Grant declared Long Branch the nation's "Summer Capital" in 1869.The park, which includes a mile of public beach and 38 acres (150,000 m2) of land, allows swimming and surfing and also contains a snack bar, sheltered eating areas, a volleyball court, showers and changing facilities, a universal-access playground, a park and rink for skaters and skateboarders, and protected sand dunes. The inclusive playground, Tony's Place, won the 2011-12 NJ Park and Recreation Association's Excellence in Design Award. In addition, it hosts the Monmouth County Park System's annual Sprint Triathlon—combining swimming, cycling and running—in September. Seven Presidents Park charges an admissions fee from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, although seasonal and multi-day passes are available.Seven Presidents Park is a protected ecological habitat. The dunes offer a natural habitat for birds and plants, while protecting the beach against large storms. The Park System constantly plants erosion-fighting beach grass to reinforce the dunes and takes other protective measures to sustain the environment. Two threatened or endangered birds, the Least Tern and Piping Plover, now breed there.Many other species of birds can be seen in the park. Seaducks, loons, gannets, gulls and alcids frequent the beaches. Especially common are the razorbill, the surf scoter, the black scoter, the long-tailed duck, the red-throated loon, the common loon, and the lesser black-backed gull. Brant geese, including the occasional black brant, can sometimes be seen at the athletic fields in foul weather. A flock of Bonaparte's gulls inhabits the park in winter. Farther inland, orange-crowned warblers, white-winged crossbills and red crossbills have been reported. Other birds found in the park have been white-winged gulls, little gulls, black-headed gulls, the sooty shearwater, the black-legged kittiwake, the parasitic jaeger, the vesper sparrow and the snow bunting.In the late 19th century, Seven Presidents Park was the location of Long Branch businessman Nate Salsbury's Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, which included performers Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley and Chief Sitting Bull.Locals have been surfing at Seven President's Park for decades as it was one of the first locations on the Jersey Shore that allowed surfing. The Kiernan Surfing Association, a group of local surfers, brokered a deal with the property owner so the surfers would not be pulled out of the water by the Long Branch police.

Skellig Islands

The Skellig Islands (Irish: Na Scealaga), once known as "the Skellocks", are two small, steep, and rocky islands lying about 13 km (8 mi) west of Bolus Head on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. The larger of the two is Skellig Michael (also known as Great Skellig) and, together with Little Skellig, are at the centre of a 364-hectare (899-acre) Important Bird Area established by BirdWatch Ireland in 2000. Skellig Michael is also famous for an early Christian monastery that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sule Stack

Sule Stack or Stack Skerry is an extremely remote island or stack in the North Atlantic off the north coast of Scotland. It is formed of Lewisian gneiss.Sule Stack lies 49 km (30 mi) north of the Scottish mainland, and 66 km (41 mi) west of the Orkney mainland, at grid reference HX561179. Sule Stack's sole neighbour, Sule Skerry, lies 10 km (6.2 mi) to the north east and the remote islands of Rona and Sula Sgeir lie further to the west.

Sule Stack and Sule Skerry are home to thousands of gannets and as a result are listed as a special protection area.

Sule Stack comes within the administrative region of the Orkney Islands.

Bird species nesting on the stack include:

Razorbill Alca torda

Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis

Great black-backed gull Larus marinus

Common shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla

Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea

Northern gannet Morus bassanus

Common guillemot Uria aalge

Swallow-tailed gull

The swallow-tailed gull (Creagrus furcatus) is an equatorial seabird in the gull family, Laridae. It is the only species in the genus Creagrus, which derives from the Latin Creagra and the Greek kreourgos which means butcher, also from kreas, meat; according to Jobling it would mean "hook for meat" referring to the hooked bill of this species. It was first described by French naturalist and surgeon Adolphe-Simon Neboux in 1846. Its scientific name is originally derived from the Greek word for gull, "Glaros" and via Latin Larus, "gull" and furca "two-tined fork". It spends most of its life flying and hunting over the open ocean. The main breeding location is in the Galápagos Islands, particularly the rocky shores and cliffs of Hood, Tower and Wolf Islands, with lower numbers on most of the other islands. It is more common on the eastern islands where the water is warmer.It is the only fully nocturnal gull and seabird in the world, preying on squid and small fish which rise to the surface at night to feed on plankton.


Syltefjordstauran is a mountain cliff in Båtsfjord Municipality in Finnmark county, Norway. It is located along the northern coast of the Syltefjorden, about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northwest of the abandoned village of Nordfjord. The 222-metre (728 ft) tall mountain cliff runs for a length of about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) along the shore. It is among the largest bird cliffs in Finnmark county.The cliff hosts the largest colony of black-legged kittiwake in Northern Europe as well as a large colony of northern gannet.

Gulls (family: Laridae)


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.