Vulnerability: vulnerable (population decreasing)
Identification: medium (characteristic features but difficult from far away)
Monitoring: easy (in colonies)
What is it?
The black-legged kittiwake, named for its characteristic call, is a small pelagic seagull with lengths between 37 and 41 cm and wingspans between 91 and 105cm. Like most seagulls, it is white with grey wings. The wings fade to white towards the flight feathers, with a pure black tip. The black-legged kittiwake can be distinguished from other gull by these pure black wing tips, bright yellow beak and deep black legs.
Where is it?
The black-legged kittiwake spends its life out to see except for breeding season. In the winter, it can be seen from equatorial western Africa and the southeastern U.S. to Greenland and north of Svalbard in the Atlantic ocean. The Pacific population winters between the southwestern U.S. and the East China, and North to southern Alaska and eastern Siberia. Atlantic breeding sites are found in eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Great Britain, northwestern France, Svalbard, and coastal Norway. Vagrants are seen annually in Finland.
- Black-legged kittiwakes are among the most numerous gull species in the world with an estimated population of up to 15,7 million individuals in 2016. However, the population has been declining since the 1980's; it is estimated that more than 40% of the population has disappeared since then. This decline continues today in every country where it breeds except for Arctic Canada.
- In Norway, some birds have started to breed in human settlements, and changed their normal behavior to spend the spring and autumn in these settlements as well. These colonies seem to be better than "wild" colonies.
- Pictures by Cécile Chauvat
- BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Rissa tridactyla. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/03/2022.
- Black-legged Kittiwake Identification. (2019). All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-legged_Kittiwake/id
- Black-legged kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla. (2021). NatureGate. Retrieved March 3rd, 2022, from https://luontoportti.com/en/t/1625/kittiwake
- Katz, C. (2020). Norwegians are building boutique hotels for threatened Arctic birds. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/norwegians-building-boutique-hotels-threatened-arctic-kittiwakes-gulls
- Norsk Polarinstitutt. Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). Downloaded from https://www.npolar.no/en/species/black-legged-kittiwake/