name = Kittiwakes

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Black-legged Kittiwakes, "Rissa tridactyla", nesting on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Charadriiformes
familia = Laridae
genus = "Rissa"
genus_authority = Stephens, 1826
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Rissa tridactyla" "Rissa brevirostris"

The kittiwakes (genus "Rissa") are two closely related seabird species in the gull family Laridae, the Black-legged Kittiwake ("R. tridactyla") and the Red-legged Kittiwake ("R. brevirostris"). The epithets "Black-legged" and "Red-legged" are used to distinguish the two species in North America, but in Europe, where "R. brevirostris" is not found, the Black-legged Kittiwake is often known simply as Kittiwake, or more colloquially in some areas as Tickleass or Tickleace. The name is derived from its call, a shrill 'kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake'.

Habitat and range

Kittiwakes are coastal breeding birds ranging in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. They form large, dense, noisy colonies during the summer reproductive period, often sharing habitat with murres. They are the only gull species that are exclusively cliff-nesting.

The Black-legged Kittiwake is one of the most numerous of seabirds. Breeding colonies can be found in the Pacific from the Kuril Islands, around the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk throughout the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands to southeast Alaska, [ru icon Artyukhin Yu.B. and V.N. Burkanov (1999). "Sea birds and mammals of the Russian Far East: a Field Guide", Мoscow: АSТ Publishing – 215 p.] and in the Atlantic from the Gulf of St. Lawrence through Greenland and the coast of Great Britain down to Portugal, as well as in the high Arctic islands. [ [ U.K. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report] ] In the winter, the range extends further south and out to sea.

In sharp contrast, the Red-legged Kittiwake has a very limited range in the Bering Sea, breeding only on the Pribilof, Bogoslof and Buldir islands in the USA, and the Commander Islands in Russia. On these islands, it shares some of the same cliff habitat as the Black-legged Kittiwake, though there is some localized segregation between the species on given cliffs.

Physical appearance

The two species are physically very similar. They have a white head and body, grey back, grey wings tipped solid black and a yellow bill. Black-legged Kittiwake adults are somewhat larger (roughly 40 cm in length with a wingspan of 90-100 cm) than Red-legged Kittiwakes (35-40 cm in length with a wingspan around 84-90 cm). Other differences include a shorter bill, larger eyes, a larger, rounder head and darker grey wings in the Red-legged Kittiwake. While most Black-legged Kittiwakes do, indeed, have dark-grey legs, some have pinkish-grey to reddish legs, making colouration a somewhat unreliable identifying marker.

In contrast to the dappled chicks of other gull species, kittiwake chicks are downy and white since they are under relatively little threat of predation. Juveniles take three years to reach maturity. When in winter plumage, both birds have a dark grey smudge behind the eye and a grey hind-neck collar. The sexes are visually indistinguishable.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • kittiwake — [kit′i wāk΄] n. pl. kittiwakes or kittiwake [echoic of its cry] any of a genus (Rissa) of small gulls of the northern oceans, that nest in cliffs and have a short or rudimentary hind toe …   English World dictionary

  • Kittiwake — Kit ti*wake (k[i^]t t[i^]*w[=a]k), n. (Zo[ o]l.) A northern gull ({Rissa tridactyla}), inhabiting the coasts of Europe and America. It is white, with black tips to the wings, and has only three toes. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • kittiwake — ► NOUN ▪ a small gull that nests in colonies on sea cliffs and has a loud call that resembles its name …   English terms dictionary

  • kittiwake — /kit ee wayk /, n. either of two small, pearl gray gulls of the genus Rissa, the black legged R. tridactyla of the North Atlantic and the red legged and red billed R. brevirostris, of the Bering Sea, both nesting on narrow cliff ledges and having …   Universalium

  • Kittiwake — tripirštis kiras statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Rissa tridactyla angl. Kittiwake vok. Dreizehenmöwe …   Paukščių anatomijos terminai

  • kittiwake — noun Etymology: imitative Date: 1661 either of two cliff nesting gulls (Rissa tridactyla and R. brevirostris) that winter on the open ocean …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • kittiwake — noun Either of two small gulls in the genus Rissa of the family Laridae that nest in colonies on sea cliffs and spend the winter on the open ocean …   Wiktionary

  • kittiwake —  Type of gull …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • kittiwake — n. small pearl gray gull that nests on narrow sea cliffs …   English contemporary dictionary

  • kittiwake — [ kɪtɪweɪk] noun a small gull that nests in colonies on sea cliffs and has a loud call resembling its name. [Rissa tridactyla.] …   English new terms dictionary

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