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Black-legged Kittiwake

Silhouette GullsGulls
Black-legged KittiwakeRissa tridactyla
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Laridae

Basic Description

A dainty gull of northern oceans, Black-legged Kittiwakes nest in teeming colonies on cliffs of the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic. On these sheer, rocky sea stacks, their unceasing cries of “kittiwake” join with the crashing surf to make the classic sound of a seabird colony. Their neat white and gray plumage is accented by a bright yellow bill and jet-black legs. Kittiwakes are true pelagic seabirds, spending virtually their entire lives on the open ocean and only touching land during the nesting season.

More ID Info
image of range map for Black-legged Kittiwake
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

The best way to appreciate Black-legged Kittiwakes is to visit a nesting colony in the summer. At other seasons the best way to find them is to take a pelagic birding trip. In the Pacific a half-day boat trip may be all that’s required, but in the Atlantic you’re likely to need a full day to reach their deepwater habitat. On occasion kittiwakes can be seen from land, particularly in New England sites such as Cape Cod, or when stray juveniles turn up on beaches or inland reservoirs.

Other Names

  • Gaviota Tridáctila (Spanish)
  • Mouette tridactyle (French)
  • Cool Facts