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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.

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.
  • The oldest Black-legged Kittiwake ever recorded was at least 20 years, 2 months old, when it was recaptured and rereleased in Alaska.

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

Black-legged Kittiwake populations appear stable. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates 3,126,000 breeding birds in North America and rates them an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. They are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List.

Credits

Range Map Help

Black-legged Kittiwake Range Map
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