Black-legged Kittiwake/Rissa tridactyla

Black-legged Kittiwake/Rissa tridactyla - Photographer: Борис Белчев
Black-legged Kittiwake/Rissa tridactyla - Photographer: Борис Белчев
Black-legged Kittiwake/Rissa tridactyla - Photographer: Борис Белчев
Black-legged Kittiwake/Rissa tridactyla - Photographer: Димитър Георгиев

L 37-42 cm, WS 93-105 cm. Rarely seen far from sea. Breeds colonially (at times several tens of thousands of pairs) on steep sea-cliffs, sometimes on buildings. Common near colonies and fishing ports, or boats at sea. Food invertebrates and fish, including waste from commercial fishing.
IDENTIFICATION: Three age-groups (see p. 168). A trifle larger than Black-headed, with slight notch in tail and short legs. Stiff, quick wingbeats and narrow outer wing give less ‘lazy’, more tern-like flight than other gulls. - Adult: Small black triangle on wing-tip; dark grey upperparts shade to whitish before black wing-tip, adding to distinctiveness of almost threecoloured wing pattern; bill yellowish; legs dark brown or blackish (rarely red, orange or flesh); head white in summer, with grey hindneck and crescentic blackish ear-spot in winter. - 1st-year: Dark ‘W-pattern’ across wings and black tail-band; juvenile and some 1st-winters have white head with black ear-spot and black half-collar; otherwise head as adult winter; ‘W’ often much faded by 1st summer, and bill becomes dull yellowish with dark marking at tip. Juvenile/1st-winter similar to 1st-year Little Gull but, with practice, recognized by different structure (Kittiwake is bigger-headed) and flight action. Kittiwake is darker grey above, has cleaner white rear portion of wing, and lacks Little Gull’s dark cap and small black patch where under secondaries meet body. - 2nd-year: Like adult, but told at close range by e.g. black fringes on outermost primaries, some black on bill, or winter head pattern in summer.
VOICE: Noisy at or near colonies; commonest call is repeated, quick, nasal ‘kitt-i-waake’. In flight, a short, nasal ‘kya!’. Alarm short, knocking ‘kt kt kt …’.

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