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Black-legged Kittiwake

Rissa tridactyla ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small, cliff-nesting gull, the Black-legged Kittiwake breeds along northern coasts and winters out at sea.

Birds of North America Online
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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
15–16.1 in
38–41 cm
Wingspan
37 in
94 cm
Weight
10.8–18.5 oz
305–525 g
Other Names
  • Mouette tridactyle (French)

Cool Facts

  • The hind toe on the foot of the Black-legged Kittiwake is reduced to a tiny bump, giving the bird its scientific name tridactyla, meaning "three-toed" (instead of four on each foot).
  • More predation occurs on Black-legged Kittiwake nests in years of scarce food because the nests are more likely to be left unattended as the parents search for food.
  • The Black-legged Kittiwake typically nests on cliff ledges, but will occasionally use man-made structures. It has been known to nest on buildings and shipwrecks.

Habitat


Ocean

Nests on cliff ledges of offshore islands, sea stacks, or inaccessible areas of coastal mainland. Winters at sea.

Food


Fish

Fish and some marine invertebrates.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–3 eggs
Egg Description
Brown, blue, gray, olive or tan, with dark brown-gray speckling.
Condition at Hatching
Alert and mobile, covered with white and gray down.
Nest Description

Nest composed of wet and dry vegetation and mud (sometimes seaweed, feathers, and barnacles) on top of mud/vegetation platform. Placed on ledge of steep cliff. Nests in colonies.

Nest Placement

Cliff

Behavior


Dabbler

Feeds in flocks at water surface, mostly in daytime; may dive (shallowly) or snatch food from surface.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Populations appear stable or increasing.

Credits

  • Baird, P. H. 1994. Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). In The Birds of North America, No. 92 (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, D.C.: The American Ornithologists’ Union.

Range Map Help

Black-legged Kittiwake Range Map
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