Rissa tridactyla


Generally not seen from shore, the Black-legged Kittiwake spends the entire winter on the open ocean, where it feeds on small fish and plankton. This is the only gull that dives and swims underwater to capture food. The Kittiwake was named for its three syllable call which sounds like "Keep Away".


General: Sexes similar. 16 to 18 inches in length.

Adult Alternate: White head, neck, breast, belly, and tail. Gray back and upperwings. Black primary wing tips with no white spots. Yellow bill with indistinct gonydeal angle. Black legs. Dark eye.

Adult Basic: Similar to adult alternate, but has dark smudges on its nape.

Juvenile: First year birds. White head, tail, and underparts. Gray back. Black bill, ear spot and neck collar. Black terminal tail band. Black outer primaries and carpal bar contrasting with paler inner primaries and secondaries.


Cliffs and seacoasts in the Arctic. Winters at sea.


2 pinkish-buff eggs with spots. The eggs have a 23-32 day incubation period. Fledging occurs in 43 days. The eggs are incubated by both parents. The nest is an open cup made from moss and seaweed and is built at the top of a cliff or on a ledge. Nests in colonies, with nests 51-57 cm apart.

Observed Locations:

  • Pacific Ocean
  • Beach next to pier, Imperial Beach

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.