Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)


French: Mouette tridactyle German: Dreizehenmöwe Spanish: Gaviota tridáctila

Larus tridactylus


, 1758,

Great Britain


Very occasionally placed in Larus. Form pollicaris possibly a separate species, differing in morphometrics, wingtip pattern#R and some vocal characteristics#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. t. tridactyla (Linnaeus, 1758) – Atlantic Kittiwake – N Atlantic from NC Canada and NE USA E through Greenland to W & N Europe, and on to N Taymyr Peninsula and Severnaya Zemlya; winters S to Sargasso Sea and W Africa.
  • R. t. pollicaris Ridgway, 1884 – Pacific Kittiwake – N Pacific from NE Siberia, Kamchatka, Sea of Okhotsk and Kuril Is through Bering Sea to Alaska; winters S to East China Sea and NW Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    38–40 cm; 305–512 g; wingspan 91–97 cm. Three-year gull. The breeding adult is a typical white-headed gull, but with short legs; mantle and upperwing-... read more


    Characteristically noisy at and around its breeding colonies. Common call (the long call) is the... read more


    Arctic and temperate waters. Breeds on coasts as far north as open water occurs, preferring high,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly marine invertebrates and fish. Outside breeding season also takes planktonic invertebrates, and has recently begun to exploit sewage... read more


    Some colonies occupied as early as January, and regularly by February; lays from mid-May to mid-June, depending on latitude; later after... read more


    Post-breeding dispersal from colonies is to the open ocean, usually well away from coast, and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The species generally increased and expanded its range during the 20th century but large-scale decline, first apparent in the... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2017). Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 May 2017).