Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)


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

    38–41 cm; 305–512 g; wingspan 91–97 cm. Three-year gull. Breeding adult is a typical white-headed gull, but with short legs; mantle and upperwing-coverts... 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 N as open water occurs, preferring high, steep... 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 Jan, and regularly by Feb; lays from mid May to mid Jun, depending on latitude; later after cold springs... read more


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

    Status and conservation

    VULNERABLE. Generally increased and expanded its range during 20th century but large-scale decline, first apparent in 1980s, has affected some Atlantic populations at least.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A., Garcia, E.F.J. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). 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 February 2020).