MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

Rissa tridactyla is a medium sized gull reaching lengths of up to 42 cm, with a wing span of up to 1.05 m. Adults have grey upperparts which fade to white before a wholly black wing tip without mirrors (white patches). In summer the head and neck are white and in winter a dusky black ear spot and grey collar on the hindneck are evident. Underparts and tail are white. The bill is yellow and the legs are dark brown or black. In juveniles the tip of the tail is black and a conspicuous dark 'M' shape is clearly visible across the upper wings, along with a black collar on the hindneck.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

All around Britain and Ireland, with the largest colonies found along North Sea coasts in Orkney, Shetland, northwest Scotland and northern England.

Global distribution

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Habitat

The black-legged kittiwake is an entirely marine gull that breeds colonially on rocky coasts but remains oceanic outside of breeding season. Breeding colonies may vary in size from a few pairs to tens of thousands but the location of these breeding sites tends to be traditional over many years. Sheer rocky cliffs are favoured but occasionally man made structures are also used.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Grey upperparts fade to white before a wholly black wing tip.
  • White head in summer, with dusky ear spot and grey collar on hindneck in winter.
  • Yellow bill.
  • Dark brown or black legs.
  • In juveniles a conspicuous dark 'M' shaped pattern is evident across the upper wings and back.

Additional information

The Kittiwake takes food by diving, either plunge-diving from flight or from the surface of the water. The diet consists chiefly of small fish such as sandeels, sprat, young herring, molluscs and amphipods but may also include offal and discards from fishing boats. Please note that distribution maps are compiled using records for both breeding and wintering populations. For more specific distribution and abundance records please refer to maps compiled by The British Trust for Ornithology, available at http://www.bto.org/birdatlas/previous/index.htm

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Further information sources

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Bibliography

    Datasets

    1. Argyll Bird Club, 2017. Bird records for Argyll for the years 2002 and 2003. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/uilybi accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

    2. BIS for Powys & Brecon Beacons National Park, 2017. Brecknock county birds records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/2rd8nh accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

    3. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h1ln5p accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

    4. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records within last 15 years. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/vntgox accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

    5. British Trust for Ornithology, 2018. Birds (BTO+Partners). Occurrence dataset https://www.bto.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

    6. British Trust for Ornithology, 2018. BTO First Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1968-1972. Occurrence dataset: https://www.bto.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

    7. British Trust for Ornithology, 2018. BTO First Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1981/82-1983/84. Occurrence dataset: https://www.bto.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

    8. British Trust for Ornithology, 2018. BTO First Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1981/82-1983/84. Occurrence dataset: https://www.bto.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

    9. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/hcgqsi accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

    10. Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, 2018. Tullie House Museum Natural History Collections. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/epewfs accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

    11. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.uk/home.html accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

    12. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. Fife Nature Records Centre combined dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ccc1ip accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

    13. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. St Andrews BioBlitz 2014. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/erweal accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

    14. Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, 2018. Bird Records held by Greater Manchester Ecology Unit. Occurrence dataset: https://www.tameside.gov.uk/ecologyunit accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-27.

    15. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. Isle of Wight Notable Species. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/sm4ety accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

    16. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/esxc9a accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    17. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2017. Isle of Man wildlife records from 01/01/2000 to 13/02/2017. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/mopwow accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    18. Merseyside BioBank., 2017. Merseyside BioBank (verified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ar0p6s accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    19. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

    20. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    21. National Trust, 2017. Wicken Fen nature reserve species data held by The National Trust. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iqeemg accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    22. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    23. North East Scotland Biological Records Centre, 2018. North East Scotland Birds (1883-2010). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/o1okcz accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01

    24. OBIS,  2018. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2018-10-16

    25. Record, 2017. RECORD Aves Data. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/pudf3y accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

    26. Rotherham Biological Records Centre, 2017. Rotherham Biological Records Centre - Non-sensitive Records from all taxonomic groups. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/d3tufo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    27. Sheffield Bird Study Group, 2017. Sheffield Bird Study Group (Yorkshire records). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ytwnad accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    28. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Birds (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/qfainq accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    29. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02

    30. Staffordshire Ecological Record, 2017. SER Site-based Surveys. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h2yko0 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    31. Staffordshire Ecological Record, 2017. SER Species-based Surveys. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/q8qen3 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    32. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ab4vwo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    33. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. Biological Recording in Scotland - Scotsman Wildlife Surveys. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/t50yhv accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    34. West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, 2017. WTSWW Data: All Taxa (West Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/gaakk2 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    35. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, 2018. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Non-sensitive records from all taxonomic groups. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/2razk5 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

    Citation

    This review can be cited as:

    Sweet, N. A. 2008. Rissa tridactyla Black-legged kittiwake. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 16-10-2018]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2218

    Last Updated: 23/09/2008